DALLAS -- For now, a large white tent sits on dusty, razed land about five miles from downtown.
Come Tuesday, more than 2,500 people are expected to show up, along with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, to mark the beginning of work on the complex that will showcase the 43rd president's eight years in office.
On more than 20 acres on the edge of the Southern Methodist University campus, work starts this week on a Texas-style presidential complex that is expected to cost more than $300 million and will include a library, museum and policy institute.
Presidential libraries "all stand out in a very unique way in that they represent the personalities of the president they represent," said Mark Langdale, president of the George W. Bush Foundation.
"President Bush wanted a building that is very low-key and approachable, that isn't all about the building, but the message on the inside."
That message, Langdale said, is represented by Freedom Hall -- a light-filled space topped with a lantern-shaped roof that will glow at night -- that will be near the entryway.
Bush "believes that freedom is a universal gift from the Almighty to everyone on the earth," Langdale said. "That's the message he wants the building to convey."
The groundbreaking ceremony for the country's 13th official presidential library begins at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
While supporters such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be at the event to support Bush, a group of protesters won't be far away, carrying signs and banners.
"Mr. Bush must be held accountable for wrongdoings, misdeeds and indeed for crimes against humanity," activist Hadi Jawad said.
George W. Bush center
The George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU, the alma mater of Laura Bush, was designed by New York architect Robert A.M. Stern and landscaped by Michael Van Valkenburgh. The 225,000-square-foot complex will include a three-story building featuring a life-size Oval Office that opens up to a Texas Rose Garden with a view of the Dallas skyline.
The complex will include the Freedom Hall, a Freedom Plaza, exhibits, a restaurant, classrooms, research rooms, offices, seminar rooms, an auditorium and a presidential suite. The George W. Bush Institute will be housed there and a 15-acre urban park will surround the complex.
As a tribute to Texas, most materials for the complex will be obtained from within 500 miles of Dallas. The exterior's red brick and Texas limestone are meant to blend in with SMU's red-brick buildings. Bluebonnets and other wildflowers will be part of the landscaping that will include a tall-grass prairie, wildflower meadow, savanna woodland, wet prairie and flood-plain forest.
The presidential libraries, where presidential papers, artifacts, gifts and records are preserved, are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Bush's library will be the third in Texas, joining libraries for George H.W. Bush at Texas A&M University in College Station and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin.
Since Bush moved to Dallas, he has received mostly a warm reception from Texans. But peace activists and war protesters have periodically marched and protested as close to his home as they can get.
"Look, I was a controversial guy as your president," Bush told a crowd in Fort Worth earlier this year. "No question about it."
On Tuesday, protesters are planning to show up near the groundbreaking ceremony.
"We feel an obligation, given the history of what we know, to mark this somehow," Jawad, who helped organize the protest, has told the news media. "Questions need to be raised and asked about what the legacy of the Bush administration is. That is what we're trying to start."
Protesters plan to create a display not far from the ceremony of soldiers' boots, dog tags and about 200 crosses.
Manhattan Construction Co. -- the same company that worked on the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington -- is the general contractor on the project
Work will start this week on the complex, which should open in spring 2013, Langdale said. Officials aren't releasing the total cost, although estimates put it at more than $300 million.
Bush's records are being stored at a converted Lewisville factory until the library opens.
Tuesday is a day to celebrate the beginning of work on the permanent building, Langdale said.
"This is the 13th presidential library," he said. "It's the first one in the 21st century."
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610