CHICAGO — The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will not be built in Chicago, the filmmaker said Friday, blaming the Friends of the Parks group that worked to block him from building on the lakefront.
The multimillion dollar museum will instead be built in California.
In a statement, Lucas referred to his original proposed location: a parking lot just south of Soldier Field.
“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” Lucas said. “The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also blamed Friends of the Parks.
"Despite our best efforts to negotiate a common solution that would keep this tremendous cultural and economic asset in Chicago, Friends of the Parks chose to instead negotiate with themselves while Lucas negotiated with cities on the West Coast,” Emanuel said.
The Friends of the Parks said in a statement Friday that it is "unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of the several alternative sites that are not on Chicago’s lakefront. That would have been the true win-win."
Lucas announced his intention to build here in April 2014, after talks broke down in San Francisco. Though Lucas is not from Chicago, his wife, financier Mellody Hobson, is. Lucas said he considered Chicago "his second home."
The museum, which had a cost pegged at $300 million in 2014, would have been used to store and display the billionaire's vast art collection, as well as screen movies and host events.
Friends of the Parks sued in 2014 to block construction of the museum on the parking lot, citing legal precedent protecting the city's public lakefront from private interests such as the Lucas Museum.
A federal judge agreed earlier this year their legal argument could proceed to trial, spurring Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve up the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place as an alternative location including more new parkland.
When Friends of the Parks later declined to drop its lawsuit, Emanuel asked an appellate court to dismiss the case.
Lucas' announcement came a week after Friends of the Parks began circulating terms to negotiate a settlement allowing the park to be built at the Lakeside Center, a plan that would have required $1.2 billion in new state-approved debt. City officials later equated the group's demands to "extortion."
The plan to build a museum in Chicago gained support not only from Emanuel and the City Council, but also religious and community leaders in the black community who argued that the museum would provide jobs. On Friday, the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Parish in Auburn Gresham attacked the parks group.
"Let's call them what they are: a gang of self-righteous elitist people that have somehow been empowered to make decisions for the City of Chicago," the Catholic priest told DNAinfo in an interview. He called Friends of the Parks "a gang who lives in high-rises."
"Tell me the difference between Friends of the Parks and the Gangster Disciples?" Pfleger asked.
In the statement, Lucas thanked those who helped him in his efforts here: “While Chicago will not be home to the museum, my wife and I will continue to enthusiastically support a wide variety of educational and cultural activities throughout the city,” he said.
Said Emanuel: "This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth."
Gino Generelli, a South Loop resident who collected 2,600 signatures on a Change.org petition urging Friends of the Parks to drop its lawsuit, said Friday he will form his own nonprofit, essentially acting as a foil against the parks group.
The group will be called the Public Spaces Advisory Council.
"Nonprofits and educational institutions have every right to be on public land," Generelli said. "Not that I don’t think what Friends of the Parks says also isn’t important, but I don’t think their mission should monopolize Chicago's public lands."
Here is the press release from the Lucas Foundation, followed by Emanuel's statement:
"The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art announced today that in light of extensive delays caused by Friends of the Parks, Chicago will no longer be considered a potential site for the museum. The board of directors and executive leadership of the museum confirmed that California will be its future home.
“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” said George W. Lucas, founder and chairman of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. “The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government.”
The location — a parking lot near Soldier Field — was originally selected by Chicago’s Site Selection Task Force in May 2014 and subsequently approved by the City Council, Park District, Plan Commission, Department of Zoning, Illinois General Assembly and the governor. When the city offered McCormick Place East as an alternative to the parking lot, Friends of the Parks announced plans to block consideration of that location as well as any lakefront site or park in Chicago.
On behalf of his wife, Mellody Hobson, and other members of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Board of Directors, Mr. Lucas expressed gratitude to the many people throughout the community who worked tirelessly to bring the institution to life on Chicago’s Museum Campus. “We are deeply appreciative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Bruce Rauner and countless others for all the time and effort they invested in trying to secure the museum for Chicago,” said Mr. Lucas.
The education-focused public institution remains dedicated to expanding public understanding and appreciation of narrative art in all its forms, providing inspiration and learning, especially for young people.
Mr. Lucas stated, “While Chicago will not be home to the museum, my wife and I will continue to enthusiastically support a wide variety of educational and cultural activities throughout the city.”
Emanuel released this statement:
“Two years ago to the day, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson announced that they had chosen Chicago as the site of their incredible legacy investment. The opportunity for a City to gain a brand new museum is rare, and this particular opportunity – a gift worth approximately $1.5 billion – would have been the largest philanthropic contribution in Chicago’s history.
Unfortunately, time has run out and the moment we’ve consistently warned about has arrived – Chicago’s loss will be another city’s gain. This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth.
Despite widespread support of the project from Chicago’s cultural, business, labor, faith and community leaders and the public, a legal challenge filed by Friends of the Parks threatened to derail this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
We tried to find common ground to resolve the lawsuit – the sole barrier preventing the start of the museum’s construction. But despite our best efforts to negotiate a common solution that would keep this tremendous cultural and economic asset in Chicago, Friends of the Parks chose to instead negotiate with themselves while Lucas negotiated with cities on the West Coast.”
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