BRONZEVILLE — The mayor said Wednesday the city could reap a huge windfall in the proposed George Lucas museum at the cost of a Soldier Field parking lot — then soothed Bears fans concerned about the possible loss of tailgating.
"There's gonna be tailgating," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a Bronzeville news conference when asked about the possible new "Star Wars" museum that could be located along the lakefront. "That will not stop."
The mayor did not detail how the activity would continue if all parking is moved underground, as some reports suggest.
South Loop reporter Lizzie Schiffman discusses the museum's proposed location:
Yet the mayor gushed at the potential of adding a cultural and economic draw like the "Star Wars" museum to the lakefront campus that already includes the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and, yes, Soldier Field. He said there were "huge economic opportunities" to be gained, as well as a potential "educational" resource sure to include the latest in computer and movie technology.
Emanuel called it "an incredible opportunity for us" and pointed out there would be "no taxpayer support," with the "Star Wars" movie mogul contributing an estimated $700 million to $1 billion.
"And our contribution is a parking lot?" Emanuel said.
The city has been debating the possible site if Chicago is chosen as home to the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum. Emanuel's Lucas Museum Site Selection Task Force has floated the idea of putting it on the site of Soldier Field parking south of the field, but that has been opposed by Friends of the Parks.
Emanuel argued Wednesday it would actually serve as "a complement to our museum campus" along the lake, and would serve to attract people to Northerly Island as well. He added it was not taking "park land," but a "parking lot," calling that "a big difference." He said it had the support of other museum presidents.
"I think Chicago, in this process, has put its best foot forward to secure" the museum, Emanuel insisted. "If kids are excited about going to a museum, we should embrace that as an educational opportunity, a cultural opportunity for the city, let alone all the economic activity," which he estimated at $2 billion in impact on the local economy, as well as 2,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs and $150 million in new tax revenue — all "for what is now a parking lot."
Chicago is being considered as home to the museum because of Lucas' ties to the city through his wife, Mellody Hobson, with San Francisco said to be the other major contender.
If Chicago is selected, Emanuel said, "We'll work through all the issues."
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