Would Obama Library Outdraw Reagan’s? Chicago Study Says Yes

A Barack Obama presidential library in Chicago could draw nearly twice as many annual visitors as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California (pictured).

That’s one of the findings from a report by economics research firm Anderson Economic Group that was released today after being commissioned by the University of Chicago, the perceived frontrunner in the competition for the library.

Reagan’s library is the nation’s most-visited with annual attendance of about 425,000. Obama could draw as many as 800,000 a year, if it were located in an urban setting with nearby public transportation such as Chicago’s South Side, the report concludes.

A library on Chicago’s South Side could “provide a significant economic boon to the neighborhood and the city,” the report says.

The annual economic impact to the City of Chicago would be $220 million, due primarily to an increase in city visitors, the report says. It would create an estimated 1,900 permanent new jobs, increasing annual local earnings by $56 million.

Obama’s attendance figure includes an estimate of about 350,000 annual visitors annually from outside the Chicago area.

Those visitors would bring additional spending of $31 million on food and retail to the neighborhood near the library, enough to support 30 new restaurants, 11 new retail outlets and a new hotel, the report says. Visitors to the city would spend about $110 million that wouldn’t be spent in Chicago otherwise.

Library construction would have a $600 million economic impact on the city, creating 3,280 local jobs for a total of $156 million in earnings over the course of the project, the study says.

The analysis projected that construction alone would cost $380 million, based on costs of other presidential libraries and anticipated features of an Obama library. The construction costs plus other indirect expenditures would provide a total of $600 million in economic impact.

The library would also help the city’s finances, the study says, adding $5 million annually to various tax revenue streams.

The report notes that the Museum of Science and Industry, also in the heart of the South Side, attracts more than 1.4 million visitors annually.

Due to the “historical significance of Obama’s presidency,” the report says his presidential library “will be a tourist attraction for reasons that other presidential libraries cannot claim.”

Susan Sher, an Obama family friend who is a senior advisor to the president at the University of Chicago, said in a statement that locating the library on the city’s South Side would offer a transformational opportunity.

“The library presents an incredible opportunity to make further progress on the kind of economic development that South Side residents and leaders have sought for many years,” she said.

Chicago, New York and Honolulu — all cities where Obama spent important parts of his life — are competing to host the library that will open sometime after the U.S.’s 44th president leaves office in January 2017.

More than 2.3 million people visited official presidential libraries in fiscal year 2013, according to a National Archives and Records Administration report.

Exhibit and museum attendance that year ranged from a high of 426,344 at the Reagan library to a low of 53,048 at the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum in Atlanta.

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