In a video message, Obama indicated he wanted the facility to be built in the area where he earned his chops as a community organizer, and where unemployment and underdevelopment remain major problems.
“With a library and a foundation on the south side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and affect change locally,” Obama said, flanked by first lady Michelle Obama.
“But what we can also do is to attract the world to Chicago.”
Four sites had been shortlisted for the project, two in Chicago, one at New York’s Columbia University and another in Obama’s home state of Hawaii.
Chicago was long the front runner.
According to organizers of the winning bid, the project could be worth $600 million during construction and later bring $200 million to the city, including 1,900 jobs and 800,000 visitors each year.
“I am thrilled to put this resource in the heart of the neighborhood that means the world to me,” said Michelle Obama, who was born in the city.
“Every value, every memory, every important relationship to me exists in Chicago. I consider myself a south sider.”
The couple were married in Chicago, both Sasha and Malia Obama were born there and it was in the “Windy City” that the family ushered in Obama’s election victory in 2008.
Since the era of Franklin Roosevelt, presidential libraries have contained papers from the subject’s time in office that are vital for historians and researchers.
But they also serve as a monument and museum that helps craft public perceptions long after the brick bats of daily political battles have passed.
“Multimedia exhibitions will interpret what Obama’s presidency meant to America and the world, and activate a new generation of leaders,” the foundation said.
Obama’s library will also play home to a foundation that the president and first lady are expected to be deeply involved in come 2017 when they leave the White House.
The foundation hosts a poll on its website asking visitors which projects they think the first couple should work on.
So far Obama has suggested that he would like to work on improving opportunities for young black men.