The Obama Presidential Library: A Source of Pride and Opportunity for a Diversity of Businesses

Pictured above is former U.S. President Barack Obama with England’s Prince Harry at the Inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, which kicked off construction of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.

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While a lot has happened since former U.S. President Barack Obama kicked off construction of the Obama Presidential Library, at the Inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, back in October 2017, a lot more remains to be done. 

The former president, through his foundation, required candidates bidding on the $300 million Obama Presidential Library Construction Management Project to commit to awarding 50 percent or more of their subcontracts to “diverse suppliers,” meaning businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals. At least 35 percent of the subcontracts must be awarded to minority-owned business enterprises. 

In the end, the foundation selected Lakeside Alliance, a newly created joint venture consisting of Turner Construction Company, and the Presidential Partners consortium of Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction, Brown & Momen, and Safeway Construction. Powers & Sons, UJAMAA, Brown & Momen, and Safeway represent some of the most established and well-respected African-American owned construction firms in Chicago. Turner Construction Company, one of the nation’s largest construction managers, has been working in and around Chicago since 1924. Turner is consistently recognized as the leading “green” builder in theUnited States. 

In a public statement, the foundation explained that while smaller firms are often precluded from winning large-scale construction projects because they lack the necessary resources or experience with similarly-sized projects, Lakeside Alliance is structured to solve that problem by creating a consortium that includes minority firms working in partnership with a national firm. “This structure goes beyond a typical arrangement where a national firm receives the majority of a contract and an MBE/WBE receives a smaller share,” state foundation officials. “The Obama Foundation anticipates that participation by the minority firms will provide the experience they need to grow and compete for other significant projects in the future.” 

The joint venture was designed to ensure that minority-owned firms from the South Side of Chicago will be in significant leadership positions in the construction of the Obama Presidential Center. The Presidential Partners will have a major stake in the financial risk and reward, day-to-day decision making and strategy-setting for the project, and people of color and women will be performing meaningful roles on the construction management team. 

In addition, the City of Chicago will be spending tens of millions of dollars to realign the roads in Jackson Park to accommodate the Obama Foundation designs, including the closing of Cornell Drive, a six-lane thoroughfare that runs through the heart of Jackson Park. These projects will be awarded through the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). 

The project management team for the Obama Presidential Center is comprised of employees of three Chicago-based firms: Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), McKissack & McKissack, and Ardmore Associates. 

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Incorporated is an American commercial real estate services firm. It is the second-largest company of its kind in the world. JLL brings “industry-leading practices” to oversight of the design and construction of the library.   

Both McKissack & McKissack and Ardmore Associates are African-American owned firms. 

McKissack & McKissack  is an outgrowth of the oldest design and construction firm owned by African-Americans in the United States. The company served as project manager for the recently completed and award-winning National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. 

Ardmore Associates is also a women-owned professional services firm, with experience working on challenging public and institutional projects across Chicago. 

The team will be responsible for establishing and directing the necessary processes to ensure the center is designed and constructed in accordance with budget, schedule, and technical requirements of the Obama Foundation.

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