Columbia’s bid on the library — and the notion of the Obamas in New York — has been widely viewed as a kind of courtesy to the Big Apple, with the universal assumption among even the Obamas’ inner circle that the couple would move back to Chicago in January 2017. But sources familiar with the process said their thinking has changed in recent months, the result both of messy Chicago politics and a personal craving for a new beginning when they leave the White House for the last time as residents. The first family fears the Chicago they left is not one they want to return to, and a source close to the family said the long-shot New York library bid has emerged as a serious alternative.

“It’s real,” an administration official told BuzzFeed News.