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Built for Bill

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Can a library be as gregarious as Bill Clinton? The former President hopes so. “He told us, ‘I want a building that says, Welcome friends, welcome neighbors—come on in,’ ” says architect Richard Olcott, who, with partner James Polshek, designed the new William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark. After a Nov. 18 gala that four living U.S. Presidents—and Bono, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen—were expected to attend, the public will get to do just that. Built in a previously industrial area of town and designed to evoke the ex-President’s pledge to “build a bridge to the 21st century,” the $165 million complex, paid for with private funds, has been a labor of love for the Clintons. Daughter Chelsea helped select the architects and Sen. Hillary Clinton offered design advice. The museum won’t avoid the Clinton scandals, including the Lewinsky affair (“I don’t want anything hidden away in the dark,” Clinton told Olcott), but most hometown folks couldn’t be prouder. “This puts us on the map,” says Ellen Plummer, executive director of the nearby Arkansas Arts Center. “This building is about a better future—it reaches out.”