Is George Lucas Finally Choosing San Francisco for His New Museum?

A legal challenge may dash the Chicago deal.

George Lucas and Mellody Hobson attend the European Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. Courtesy of Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

When George Lucas picked Chicago over San Francisco as the site of the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in 2014, putting an end to a months-long love triangle, we assumed it was happily ever after for the Star Wars filmmaker and his wife, Chicago native Mellody Hobson. But, almost as if this were the third act in a romantic comedy, Lucas may find his way back to his first love, San Francisco, after all.

With the Chicago project bogged down by a legal challenge from preservationist group Friends of the Park, which contends that the museum’s lakefront location would violate the state’s public trust laws, Lucas is now back in talks with the Bay Area, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee has once again been wooing Lucas, with newly-proposed site on Treasure Island, a former Navy base connected to both Oakland and San Francisco by the Bay Bridge. “In the abstract, it would work really well,” John King, urban design critic with the San Francisco Chronicle, told the Chicago Tribune, calling it an “architectural blank slate.”

“It doesn’t have the legal hurdles, and Treasure Island is nobody’s backyard,” he added. “You don’t have really concerned neighbors or constituency groups watching out for it, you don’t have public trust law and you don’t have national historical preservation law on it.”

Rendering for the new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Chicago. Courtesy of MAD Architects.

Rendering for the new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Chicago. Courtesy of MAD Architects.

Should Lucas tie the knot with San Francisco, he would likely have to create a new ferry or water taxi service to improve access to the transportation-challenged site.

The original plan was for Lucas to build at a site at Crissy Field, but the proposal was rejected by the Presidio Trust. Eager to lock down Lucas, San Francisco offered a waterfront location on Piers 30–32 as a second option, but Lucas was won over by the Chicago plan, which would place his institution near major cultural attractions such as the Field Museum, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium.

The museum will house Lucas’s collection of movie memorabilia and art, including pieces by Maxfield Parrish, Alberto Vargas, and Norman Rockwell, as well as plenty of Star Wars-related materials.

Detail of the poster for Star Wars VII: The Force AwakensImage: Courtesy LucasArts

Detail of the poster for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. Courtesy of LucasArts.

It remains to be seen whether Lucas will be moved to give up on Chicago, where he has faced considerable opposition, first from Bears fans and now from the preservationist group, despite city approval. If the current plan is, in fact, stymied by their lawsuit, mayor Rahm Emanuel has reportedly devised an alternative, which would involve tearing down a convention hall and borrowing $1.2 billion from the state, according to the Chicago Tribune. The museum’s current design, from Beijing-based architectural firm MAD Architects, was unveiled in November 2014.

There is also a third potential suitor in play. During the museum’s initial search for a home, Los Angeles also made a last-minute proposal in hopes of winning the film director’s heart. Should Lucas wish to reconsider southern California, “we would welcome it in Los Angeles,” Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said in a recent statement.

Whether or not the Lucas Museum will prove it’s never too late for love remains to be seen, but San Francisco is still full of hope. “I never gave up on the idea,” Lee told the Chronicle. “We have a chance to bring it back, and I want to be open and positive about it.”

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