Hawaii's bid for the Obama Presidential Center is taking shape with a key deadline coming up soon. Initial proposals must be turned in by June 16 to the Barack Obama Foundation.
Robert Perkinson is helping to spearhead the campaign to bring the facility to Hawaii. He shared a sneak peek of the preliminary proposal with the American Institute of Architects on Friday.
"We're just trying to show that we have some compelling ideas, that we have a site that could work, and that Hawaii is really presenting a united effort, too," said Perkinson, a professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
"What the library would do to Hawaii is put us on the map, not only on the national map, but international map," said John Ida, president of the American Institute of Architects.
Besides traditional elements such as a museum and archives, the plan includes a leadership academy for students and other ideas.
"A convening institute would be a place where the president could bring people together to solve big problems and hopefully bring island-style solutions to some of the big challenges we face in the world today," explained Perkinson.
The proposed site for the center covers roughly seven acres in Kakaako. The view is spectacular, but being near the ocean also poses risks.
"Any coastal site comes with risks of storms and sea-level rise and tsunami, and so UH faculty are looking into how can you best design a building to be most resilient," said Perkinson.
Honolulu is competing with other cities, including Chicago and New York.
"We suspect it's most likely that the president will be interested in creating a base of operations in more than one city so we're also trying to help think about how Hawaii can help him do that as well," Perkinson said.
Rather than just reflecting on the president's past, the group wants the center to also focus on the future.
"We think rather than just conceiving of an institution that would just commemorate his presidency, we're proposing a facility that would help him carry forward his work," said Perkinson.
The Barack Obama Foundation will ask for detailed plans from the most competitive applicants this summer. A final decision is expected by early next year.