STREETERVILLE — Public hearings on what some have dubbed the "Star Wars Museum" will begin as early as next month and be held all over the city under an agreement approved Wednesday by the Chicago Park District.
The parks board entered into the "Memorandum of Agreement" with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is planned for south of Soldier Field on the Museum Campus. The agreement provides "a framework to guide the upcoming process of drafting a development agreement and an operating agreement for public input and approval," the Park District explained in a release.
The agreement includes a commitment to host a series of public forums starting in October and lasting at least six months, paired with research and site analysis, Park District Chief of Staff Gia Biagi said Wednesday.
The agreement will establish "clear guidelines to ensure the building remains home to a public museum like others on the Museum Campus, that green space is enhanced, and that taxpayers are protected."
It will also create a framework to improve the museum campus with added green space in former parking lots, and improve lakefront access with pedestrian and bike paths to Northerly Island Park — all funded by George Lucas.
"It is my hope and expectation that the end result will be a resource far more green, and of far more benefit to the public, than what we have now," board president Bryan Traubert said.
Traubert said lynchpin issues in the agreement will include that the museum and site improvements are funded privately, that the museum building is operated "as a museum for the public," with free days and outreach to Chicago's students, and that site improvements include additional parking, new park land and improved pedestrian access to Northerly Island.
The improvements accompanying the Lucas Museum's construction coincide with an initiative launched Wednesday by the Park District to revamp the Museum Campus for the first time since 1998.
That project will also rely heavily on public input to shape the renovation plan.
"It's Chicago's front yard, and so we need to make sure that everyone's engaged in" the planning process, Biagi said. "There's a lot to talk about, and there needs to be a public process."
Museum Campus plan will target four areas of improvement: recreation, for both residents and tourists; education and community outreach opportunities; sustainability, both financial and ecological; and improved accessibility.
At the same time, the Chicago Department of Transportation is developing a new transportation plan to improve access to Museum Campus and Northerly Island, Biagi said, which will also be developed with public input, and construction plans are underway for a Jeanne Gang-designed bridge to Northerly Island.
"It's a big deal," Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said Wednesday. "This is a big opportunity for the city of Chicago, and also the Chicago Park District. There's going to be no lack of public process."
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