George Lucas’s Museum Looks to San Francisco or LA, After Being Spurned by Chicago

The Force was not with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art's plan for the Windy City.

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.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, stymied by lawsuits, officially abandoned its efforts to build in Chicago on June 24, and announced its decision to instead call California home. George Lucas picked Chicago over San Francisco as the site of the forthcoming institution in 2014, after months of back and forth as he considered prospective locations in both cities, as well as a last-minute bid from Los Angeles.

Chicago won out partially because San Francisco rejected Lucas’s first choice of location, but also because the Windy City is the hometown of the Star Wars creator’s wife, Mellody Hobson. Her boss, John W. Rogers Jr., chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments, told the Chicago Tribune that Hobson is “just heartbroken by this—she loves the city so much.”

The plan fell apart thanks to a lawsuit from Friends of the Parks, which argued that the museum’s planned lakefront location on a parking lot near Soldier Field violated the state’s public trust laws.

“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” said Lucas in a statement issued by the museum. “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 mayor created a false expectation when he promised Mr. Lucas and city residents a museum on a site that was not legal,” Juanita Irizarry, the preservationist group’s executive director fired back in the Chicago Sun-Times. “From the beginning, there should have been a real process to get the Lucas museum on an appropriate site west of Lake Shore Drive. If not, then don’t waste all of our time.”

“We do wish Mr. Lucas would have taken us up on our offer to build the museum on another site,” she added.

A rendering of the Treasure Island redevelopment. Courtesy of Lennar Corp./Wilson Meany.

A rendering of the Treasure Island redevelopment. Courtesy of Lennar Corp./Wilson Meany.

Instead, it now seems likely that the Lucas Museum will wind up on San Francisco’s Treasure Island, a former Navy base. Building the museum will likely require the introduction of a new ferry or water taxi service for visitors (which the director has promised to personally fund).

“It is something that appears to have the support of everyone from the left, right and center,” supervisor Aaron Peskin told the San Francisco Chronicle, which noted that he has frequently opposed past waterfront developments.

Reportedly, Beijing-based architectural firm MAD Architects, whose design for the failed Chicago location was unveiled in November 2014, is still on the project and has already devised a futuristic design for Treasure Island. “It’s quite iconic and still sculptural,” said an anonymous source quoted by the Chronicle, describing a building that would take full advantage of the island’s impressive views of the bay and the city.

It’s not a done deal, however, as Los Angeles is still interested in winning Lucas over, offering a site near the University of Southern California, his alma mater.

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.

“We understand Mr. Lucas is weighing his options,” said Deirdre Hussey, spokeswoman for San Francisco mayor Ed Lee to the Chronicle. “The mayor and the Board of Supervisors are working closely with the Lucas team to have a home for his world-class collection on Treasure Island.”

While Lucas takes his time to nail down his museum’s home once and for all, he did offer some words of condolence to the Windy City: “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.”


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