Hawaii envisions presidential library on the beach

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii hopes it has an offer Honolulu-born President Barack Obama won't be able to turn down.

It hopes to build him a presidential library on the ocean, with a dramatic view of his hometown's famed Diamond Head volcanic crater. The state's abundant sunshine would generate solar power and support vegetable gardens on site.

Hawaii officials predicted Thursday that the prime 8-acre spot on a rocky shoreline between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu, combined with the state's many tourists, would make the facility one of the nation's most heavily visited presidential centers.

"You can't beat waterfront land in Honolulu, with all due respect for the other cities," U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Thursday, the deadline for proposals.

Hawaii is competing with bids from Chicago, where Obama spent much of his adult life, and New York, where he attended Columbia University as an undergraduate.

A group supported by Hawaii's governor, the University of Hawaii and several other institutions, including Punahou School, where Obama attended from fifth grade until he graduated from high school, submitted its ideas to the Barack Obama Foundation. It included designs from four separate architect teams.

Most have vast, covered, open-air spaces to take advantage of island breezes. One vows to harness the state's abundant sunshine for solar power. Vegetable gardens would carry on the agricultural tradition first lady Michelle Obama has begun at the White House.

Columbia University said it submitted a proposal for a center in West Harlem, where it is building a satellite campus, but wasn't revealing any details. The University of Illinois at Chicago submitted its plan with its community partner North Lawndale. The University of Chicago submitted its bid in two big binders in a gray box about 3 1/2 inches thick.

The Hawaii group emphasized the designs aren't final and are only meant to offer examples of what's possible at the waterfront site.

Hawaii would benefit from an influx of capital to build the center — which is expected to come largely from out-of-state fundraising — and $23 million to $42 million in additional state and city tax revenue, the group said.

Paul Brewbaker, a Hawaii-based economist, said the library could draw from the 8 million tourists who travel to the islands each year, but he questioned whether it would be one of the most-visited presidential centers. Further, he said many people don't view Hawaii as a place for work, and scholars might balk at going there for research. It's also expensive to fly to and stay in Hawaii, he said.

The president and the first lady will announce their choice by the end of March.

Schatz said he believes Hawaii has a good chance, even though Obama has spent most of his professional life far from the islands. He said the choice would be a "deeply personal one" for the president.

"It has to do with how he wants to define his legacy," Schatz said.

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