It seems the on-again off-again love affair between George Lucas and the city of Chicago has finally fizzled, at least when it comes to Star Wars–themed museums. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Lucas has halted his Windy City plans to build The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
Oh, where are my manners; this should be explained the proper way.
It is a period of civil unrest. Rebel special interest groups, striking from their lawyer’s office base, have won their victory against the Lucas Alliance…
During the court battle, the Friends of the Parks managed to stop plans for ultimate nerdy art museum, The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a modern building on Chicago’s lakefront with enough opportunity to create jobs, bring in money and make use of a space primarily used for tailgating during football season.
The fate of the museum that would have been friggen awesome in Chicago is still unknown…
Star Wars references aside, and speaking as a Chicago resident myself, I call this a major bummer. Back in 2014, a group called Friends of the Parks filed a lawsuit that sought to stop the museum from being built on the Chicago lakefront. The simplest way to explain what happened is that the city’s lakefront belongs to all Chicago residents and anything built on that land has to, in the most basic of terms, benefit the citizens of Chicago. FotP argued that a privately owned museum wouldn’t benefit the citizens despite the surrounding area already being home to a museum, an aquarium, a planetarium, a concert venue, and a NFL football stadium. Flash forward two years later and George Lucas, sick of arguing, has decided to abandon his plans to build in Chicago.
Artist’s rendering of proposed lakefront museum
In a statement about his decision, Lucas said “No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” and “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.”
While I can see the importance of keeping public land public, I can’t help but feel this is a huge loss for the city of Chicago. Yes, it’s a slippery slope if you let go of public land. And yes, it would quite literally change the landscape of the city if you were to allow companies to do what they want with that land. But it’s not like I, or any Chicago resident, can just stroll up to Soldier Field and hang out in a private box whenever we want for free. And speaking of, as I mentioned in the crawl, the proposed museum would have been built on land that’s currently used for tailgating during events at Soldier Field… sometimes.
On the left, you see the parking lot that currently takes up the land in question. On the right is what Friends of the Parks were worried about. The (imagine I’m doing the world’s largest sarcastic air quotes) incredibly dangerous threat to Chicagoan’s well-being would have been replacing a gigantic parking lot with an art museum and more green space than exists in that area now. Dammit, writing this article is getting me more and more upset as it goes on as I’m now just realizing they could have probably called the park south of the building “Endor.”
I’m not going to pretend that I know the intricate details of Chicago’s laws and I wouldn’t dare think I could speak for the entire city (unlike groups that shall remain nameless *cough* Friends of the Parks *cough*), but as a Chicago resident, it saddens me that Lucas ultimately had to give up trying to build here. I sincerely believe the parks and public spaces are an integral part of Chicago that makes it a great place to live and visit but I also think FotP really missed the mark with this. “Compromise” isn’t a four letter word and shouldn’t be treated as such. Whatever city ends up with The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be lucky as far as I’m concerned and I’ll be booking my flight to visit as soon as it opens.
Given the choice between a museum that would draw people from around the world every single day of the year or a parking lot that’s sometimes used during football season, which would you choose? Let’s discuss in the comments below.