Donald Trump is planning a billion-dollar fundraising campaign for the construction of his presidential library — which he imagines will become a top tourist attraction in North America. Sources tell The Chronicle that Trump has informally narrowed the site selection to three major cities, with a strong preference for New York City’s Central Park, immediately adjacent to Wollman Rink.
Trump is credited with renovating that long-defunct ice rink in 1986, sparking something of urban renaissance in his midtown Manhattan neighborhood. It was one of the businessman’s first endeavors into civic leadership — in the role of private sector businessman by day and a concerned civic activist by night.
The Trump Organization has since operated the public ice rink on a charitable basis. That site comprises an area of the park located just north of the rink, abutting 65th Street, East Drive, and Center Drive. It’s located four blocks from Trump Tower and across the street from The Plaza Hotel.
The second site under consideration is located on Franklin Square in Philadelphia, at the foot of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, on a parcel that is currently occupied by the Metro Club Condominiums and surface parking lots. That site is located one block from the National Constitution Center, two blocks from the United States Mint, three blocks from the Liberty Bell, and four blocks from Independence Hall.
Advocates for the location argue that, given the historic neighborhood, the recently renovated public square, and the high visibility location of the parcel, a structure with boldly unapologetic architecture would really pop with the Philly skyline as its backdrop.
As an undergraduate, Trump attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and he sees Philadelphia as something of a ‘second hometown’. While he won the State during the 2016 election on the strength of his Rust Belt revival message in the western portion of Pennsylvania, he lost the Philadelphia metropolitan area.
“If he wins the Philadelphia suburbs in 2020, he’s going to locate his library in Philly. If he wins PA again, it’s very likely he puts it in Philly, and he intends to make it a really compelling museum of freedom,” the source explains.
“But I can see the politicos in Pittsburgh wanting it located at Gettysburg instead, so he might have to manage the politics of that during the 2020 reelection campaign,” he adds.
The third site under consideration is located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on an open lawn that is currently known as West Potomac Park. That parcel, located at Independence Avenue and Ohio Drive, is across the Street from the Martin Luther King Memorial and a block from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, enjoying sweeping views of the Potomac River.
With an admission price set at $10 per visitor, some in the Trump orbit think the museum could attract more than 5 million people annually (about half the attendance of The Louvre), generating some $50 million in operating revenues above and beyond federal monies that are budgeted for operating presidential libraries.
Any surplus operating revenues, the source insists, would accrue to the non-profit foundation that would be tasked with the library’s public mission. It’s likely that Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, who are still living in New York, will spearhead the project’s fundraising and design effort. Those familiar with their thinking predict that “all operating profits will be reinvested into the museum itself, or into the parklands surrounding it.”
The prospect of the library’s profits being reinvested into public space is likely to quell any local opposition to the project, given the notoriously liberal leanings of the potential host cities.
Trump prefers to begin the planning process ahead of schedule, in keeping with his personal brand. He is currently considering architects for the project — rumored to include Meejin Yoon, Richard Meier, and Rem Koolhaas.