The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will no longer be built in Chicago, “Star Wars” founder George Lucas announced June 24.
Since November 2014, Lucas’ plan to build the $400 million museum on 17 acres of lakefront public land between Soldier Field and McCormick Place has been hindered by the preservation group Friends of the Parks, who filed a lawsuit against Lucas.
For some months now, many expected Lucas to stand down. Now the museum’s departure is set in stone.
“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” Lucas said in a statement. “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.”
Lucas and his supporters argued that the land they wanted to build on is currently a parking lot, and the museum — including Lucas’ $600 million art collection — would be a befitting addition to Chicago’s existing lakefront.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Parks argued the museum cannot be built on land that would violent public trust doctrine, that it serves a private interest more than it does residents and that the immense building would taint the lakefront’s atmosphere.
The non-profit instead offered that Lucas build his museum on more suitable land, such as the Michael Reese hospital site or the west side of Lake Shore Drive, above the rails.
“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,” said Friends of the Parks executive director Juanita Irizarry and board chair Lauren Molts in a statement.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel was one of the museum’s biggest advocates. He has pushed the proposal for the museum through the Chicago City Council, the Plan Commission and the Chicago Park District, who all approved it.
“Chicago’s loss will be another city’s gain,” Emanuel said. “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.”
There is increasing talk that Lucas now plans to build his museum in either Los Angeles or San Francisco, a city in which Lucas’ museum was barred in a lawsuit quite similar to the one in Chicago. The mayor of Los Angeles has been a vocal proponent of Lucas’ museum there.
The aging Lucas has made it clear in the past that he wants to see his dream become reality soon.
“While Chicago will not be home to the museum, my wife and I will continue to enthusiastically support a wide variety of educational and cultural activities throughout the city,” Lucas said in a statement.