THE LOOP — An independent backer of the Lucas Museum delivered an online petition signed by 2,500 people to Friends of the Parks on Wednesday in a bid to convince the group to drop its lawsuit halting construction.
"The public overwhelmingly supports this museum and wants to see it happen," said Gino Generelli, owner of a tech-oriented small business in the Loop.
Generelli made it plain Wednesday in delivering the petition to Friends of the Parks' Loop offices that being a fan of "Star Wars" movie mogul George Lucas and his films has nothing to do with it.
"As much as I like 'Star Wars' and everything associated with it, I'm not supporting this as a 'Star Wars' fan," Generelli said outside the group's offices. "I'm supporting this as an art-museum fan and as someone who has studied theater and thinks storytelling is extremely important.
"I think an art museum on the Museum Campus is a great thing for our city," he said. "A museum devoted to the history of storytelling is something we really need."
Generelli said he posted the petition on Change.org three months ago and it has been signed by 2,500 museum supporters.
"I was just blown away by how many people supported this," Generelli said. Support for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, he added, "spans a wide spectrum," from those seeking jobs to art aficionados to, yes, "Star Wars" fans, but's it's generally backed by a "vast majority" of Chicagoans.
Generelli claimed a similar online petition posted by Friends of the Parks years ago had amassed only 1,500 signatures.
Friends of the Parks did not respond to requests for comment, although Executive Director Juanita Irizarry clarified that its suit remains in play.
"I have absolutely no reason to think they'll change their mind," he said. "I'm hoping they will acknowledge this is just the right thing to do for our city.
"I do understand the important mission of Friends of the Parks," Generelli said. He cited how the design arrived at for its originally designated location on the South Lot of Soldier Field included new green space, adding, "I think it is compatible with their mission to support this museum. We are not talking about a park here. We are talking about a parking lot."
Yet a parking lot it remains, and the Bears are going ahead with selling season parking passes on the South Lot. That would seem to rule out any start to museum construction this year.
The Bears' move came after Emanuel suggested the museum be shifted to the current site of the McCormick Place East Lakeside Center.
The Park District tacitly acknowledged Wednesday that it had signed off on the Bears' annual season-ticket parking lottery, including South Lot spaces, with spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner saying, "We are following our normal protocols at this point."
Generelli, 34, lives in Lakeview, but is moving to the South Loop this summer and still hopes to soon find the Lucas Museum there as well. "I will be one of the people whose view will be affected by this museum," he said, "and I have no problem waking up and looking at it."
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