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George Lucas Museum Coming to Chicago's Lakefront; 'I Am Humbled,' He Says

By Ted Cox | June 24, 2014 4:51pm | Updated on June 24, 2014 5:24pm
 The George Lucas Museum is coming to Chicago, officials said Tuesday.
George Lucas Museum
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CITY HALL — Chicago has scored the George Lucas Museum, winning out in competition against San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts and architecture," Lucas said in a statement released Tuesday.

Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed first reported the Chicago victory.

Museum spokeswoman Devon Spurgeon said Chicago was expected to be selected by the museum board in a formal vote Wednesday. The museum will also be renamed the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

"George Lucas has revolutionized the art of storytelling over the last four decades, and we are honored to be the recipient of this incredible legacy investment that will allow everyone to learn about and experience the narrative arts," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

 A bird's-eye view of the city-designated site for the proposed Lucas Museum, boxed off between Soldier Field (l.) and McCormick Place (r.).
A bird's-eye view of the city-designated site for the proposed Lucas Museum, boxed off between Soldier Field (l.) and McCormick Place (r.).
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City of Chicago

"Like Marshall Field, John G. Shedd and Max Adler before him, George's philanthropy will inspire and educate for generations," he added. "No other museum like this exists in the world, making it a tremendous educational, cultural and job-creation asset for all Chicagoans, as well as an unparalleled draw for international tourists."

Later, in an appearance at City Hall, Emanuel said he had just gotten off the phone with Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, "to thank them for choosing Chicago, the most American of American cities." He called it a "tremendous opportunity" for the city — culturally, educationally and economically.

San Francisco and Los Angeles also sought the museum, which is expected to showcase the "Star Wars" director's collection of art, including works by Norman Rockwell. It will also include movie memorabilia and examples of the groundbreaking special-effects work Lucas' company Industrial Light & Magic has developed over the years.

Chicago won out, it's largely felt, because of Lucas' ties to the city through his wife. They had a wedding reception in Hyde Park a year ago.

"Choosing Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but a difficult decision for me personally because of my strong personal and professional roots in the [San Francisco] bay area," said Lucas, a Modesto, Calif., native. "I thank all Californians who reached out to me in support of the museum."

Chicago has selected a site on the Museum Campus along Lake Shore Drive between Soldier Field and McCormick Place for the museum. Parking lots there are planned to be sunk into the ground to clear space for the museum above.

"It is a great privilege for the museum to be a custodian of this cherished land," Lucas added.

Yet some opponents have a bad feeling about this. Friends of the Parks has opposed the site, and Cassandra Francis, the group's president, says plans to sink the parking lots on the same location could be costly because of measures necessary to deal with the high water table near the lake. She also warned of possible site contamination in the digging, as it's built on a landfill created in the years after the Chicago Fire.

At City Hall Tuesday, the mayor dismissed concerns about relocating tailgating for Bear fans outside Soldier Field.

The museum is projected to open in 2018.

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