George Lucas chooses Chicago for museum site


CHICAGO — “Star Wars” creator George Lucas has selected Chicago over Los Angeles and San Francisco as the future home of his collection of art and movie memorabilia, according to a spokeswoman for the museum.

A vote by the museum’s board, which would make the decision official, is expected Wednesday. The board also is expected to change the name of the museum from the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum to the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Pending approval of the Chicago Plan Commission, Lucas’ institution would be located on parking lots between Soldier Field and McCormick Place and would open in 2018. Architectural renderings will be presented to city officials in early fall, according to a statement from the museum.

The decision to select Chicago reflects both a bungling of the billionaire’s legacy project by the board of a national park in San Francisco as well as an aggressive lobbying effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“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 Bay Area,” Lucas said in a statement.

Lucas is a native of Modesto, Calif., but he built his career in San Francisco. He never made a movie in Hollywood. The filmmaker is now married to a Chicagoan, Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson, and lives in Chicago part-time.

The museum will house a collection that includes valuable Norman Rockwell paintings, examples of the Hollywood special effects he pioneered at Industrial Light & Magic, and memorabilia such as a scale model of the Millennium Falcon, the fictional spacecraft commanded by Han Solo. Some of the collection is featured on the museum’s website,
The works are all wrapped around the theme of storytelling, and many pieces, such as Lucas’ collection of magazine illustrations, predate the arrival of film, television and radio, said Laurie Norton Moffatt, chief executive officer of the Norman Rockwell Museum, who is advising Lucas.

“It’s still an emerging and growing collection,” she said. Of the more modern items, she noted, “He has an extraordinary collection of movie posters. I think he has the largest collection in the world.”

According to a source, Lucas heavily weighed two factors in Chicago’s favor. One was that the city draws more tourists than San Francisco.

Chicago set a record in 2012 with 46.37 million visitors while the city of San Francisco attracted 16.51 million visitors that year, according to the San Francisco Travel Association.

In addition, the site Emanuel offered to Lucas is located near the Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium. Lucas hopes to collaborate with neighboring museums, the source said.

Still, the museum is expected to draw opposition from open space advocates. Friends of the Parks has opposed the Soldier Field site because it would violate one of the 14 basic policies of the Lakefront Plan of Chicago, which prohibits further private development east of Lake Shore Drive.

Under Emanuel’s plan, the two Chicago Park District-owned parking lots would be leased to the museum for $1, which is similar to arrangements other large cultural institutions have with the Park District. But unlike other museums, the Lucas museum would not receive taxpayer subsidies to cover a portion of its operations, mayoral aides have said.

The theory is that the museum will draw conventioneers from neighboring McCormick Place and that the 17-acre plot of land being offered is large enough to both house the museum while leaving about 12 acres for additional green space.

The parking lots would be moved underground at Lucas’ expense, the city has said. In addition to paying construction costs, Lucas has said the museum would receive a $400 million endowment over time.



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