Lucas Drops Attempt To Build Museum in Chicago


Chicago will not be home to the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the Lucas Foundation announced today. Lucas wants to see the museum completed in his lifetime, and is unwilling to engage in time-consuming litigation with Friends of Parks to use the Chicago lakefront location approved by local government. The museum will now be built somewhere in California. It is the second time Lucas’ efforts have been defeated, the first coming when his original proposal to build on the grounds of the Presidio failed to gain acceptance in San Francisco.

The Lucas Foundation said in a press release:

…In light of extensive delays caused by Friends of the Parks, Chicago will no longer be considered a potential site for the museum. The board of directors and executive leadership of the museum confirmed that California will be its future home.

“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” said George W. Lucas, founder and chairman of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. “The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government.”

The location — a parking lot near Soldier Field — was originally selected by Chicago’s Site Selection Task Force in May 2014 and subsequently approved by the City Council, Park District, Plan Commission, Department of Zoning, Illinois General Assembly and the governor. When the city offered McCormick Place East as an alternative to the parking lot, Friends of the Parks announced plans to block consideration of that location as well as any lakefront site or park in Chicago….

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement:

Two years ago to the day, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson announced that they had chosen Chicago as the site of their incredible legacy investment. The opportunity for a City to gain a brand new museum is rare, and this particular opportunity – a gift worth approximately $1.5 billion – would have been the largest philanthropic contribution in Chicago’s history….

We tried to find common ground to resolve the lawsuit – the sole barrier preventing the start of the museum’s construction. But despite our best efforts to negotiate a common solution that would keep this tremendous cultural and economic asset in Chicago, Friends of the Parks chose to instead negotiate with themselves while Lucas negotiated with cities on the West Coast.

Friends of the Parks response, reported by the Chicago Tribune, reaffirmed its position that the Lucas project did not belong on the lakefront:

“It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of several alternative sites that is not on Chicago’s lakefront. That would have been the true win-win,” Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and board chair Lauren Moltz said in a statement. Irizarry could not immediately be reached. Moltz declined additional comment.

Friends of the Parks argued that the museum plans violate the public trust doctrine, benefit a private interest more than the state’s residents and tarnish the city’s lakefront. While the group hinted at a compromise in recent days, Friends of the Parks did not withdraw its lawsuit and remained steadfast in its opposition to lakefront development.

One news source says Lucas is back in discussion with the city of San Francisco. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also is active in the media trying to attract Lucas’ interest in LA.

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12 thoughts on “Lucas Drops Attempt To Build Museum in Chicago

  1. I can’t say that I’m sorry about this. Lucas’ sense of unjustified entitlement in demanding prime waterfront property that should instead be a park for all Chicagoans to enjoy is just unreal. 😐

  2. So “…a parking lot near Soldier Field…: is “…prime waterfront property that should instead be a park for all Chicagoans to enjoy…”?

    Chicago parking lots must be a whole lot better than what we have here. Or some jackasses in Chitown are so gung ho for parks they want to aggrandize all the parking to make more places people can’t park, so they can enjoy the space…

  3. I’m not surprised by Lucas’ decision to move on. Wonder what waterfront area they’ll choose next? Two down and so many more to go. Maybe the art doesn’t need to look out over the water it can’t see as, at this point in time, it isn’t sentient? Something for the Lucus’ to consider if they want to see this completed in their lifetime.

  4. Al the Great and Powerful: So “…a parking lot near Soldier Field…: is “…prime waterfront property that should instead be a park for all Chicagoans to enjoy…”?

    You haven’t gotten the whole story. Surely you know better than to buy PR propaganda wholesale? The waterfront land Lucas wanted is reserved to become public parkland. The part you’re quoting is a deliberate attempt on Lucas’ part to downplay the quality of the land he was trying to grab — and the consequences to the people of Chicago if he had succeeded.

  5. What JJ said. The “parking lot” is at worst under-utilized lakefront; it should be green space, but it is in any case downtown lakefront, smack on the shoreline and right in the middle of the museum campus. For a whole bunch of complex reasons, Lucas’s building did not belong there. Now, on the southside somewhere, possibly on land that the city already owns where Michael Reese Hospital used to be–also centrally located and with easy access–fine! The lakefront–no.

    Good luck, San Francisco. Given what Lucas said he wanted from you last time, I suspect you’ll need it . . .

  6. Maybe the art doesn’t need to look out over the water it can’t see as, at this point in time, it isn’t sentient?

    Even if it were sentient, it wouldn’t help: the building as proposed has no windows. Which makes their refusal to consider the old hospital site even more confusing.

  7. lurkertype: I don’t expect Lucas to bring it to LA. We’d love a spaceship shaped museum from a sci-fi movie maker. Would take us back to our tradition of restaurants shaped like a derby, hot dog stands and doughnut shops and ice cream stores shaped like their products. Odd to think we had that and Frank Lloyd Wright at the same time.

  8. And you had even weirder things, as cataloged in “…And He Built a Crooked House”.

    BTW — were you following Making Light when we concluded (from following a link to a Vogue interview) that that story is the reason Joni Mitchell moved to Laurel Canyon? She didn’t mention the title (or even the book she saw it in), but her recollection of the first few paragraphs was strikingly detailed.

  9. @Mike: Exactly! It’s perfect for LA — movie connection, Googie style redux.

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