CITY HALL — The mayor insisted the proposed Lucas Museum was on "solid legal ground" over opposition on lakefront access and sought to reassure Bear fans that their tailgating needs would be taken care of during a news conference Wednesday at City Hall.
"We feel very comfortable from a legal standpoint," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said following Wednesday's City Council meeting. "It's part of an entire museum campus."
He also stressed how the museum was based on philanthropy, like the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium, which also sit east of Lake Shore Drive.
Friends of the Parks has led opposition to building the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the proposed site between Soldier Field and McCormick Place, and has specifically cited the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, which states no new private development can be made east of Lake Shore Drive. The group has threatened to file suit over the issue.
"You always check to make sure you're on solid legal ground," Emanuel countered Wednesday, suggesting that his arguments on the museum campus and philanthropy would prevail. He also tried to soothe open-space advocates by promising, "It will be a vibrant, green museum campus," connected to the new wetlands project at Northerly Island.
"It's a huge addition for the city," Emanuel said, citing the "educational, cultural opportunity, and the economic opportunity."
That alone, he suggested, was enough to carry the day, citing the estimated $2 billion in economic impact the museum could have on the local economy, as well as 1,500 construction jobs, 500 permanent jobs and $150 million in tax revenue.
"And zero tax support," he added. "And our contribution is two parking lots."
The loss of those lots, however, or sinking them underground, would mean the end of Bear fans tailgating in them, but the mayor told fans not to worry.
"We're gonna work on the tailgaters," Emanuel said. "On the times in which there are games there, we will work through the issues of tailgating so you can both have a museum and open land and tailgating. That's what you have smart architects for and designers."
A day after the city announced it had snagged the highly sought museum, Emanuel also touted how San Francisco and Los Angeles felt they had lost out, saying, "Imagine how San Francisco and L.A. feel today."
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