The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is no longer a coming attraction to Chicago's iconic waterfront.
Despite strong backing from Chicago's government, George Lucas announced this week that he's throwing in the towel on the Windy City and reassessing sites for the $1.5 billion project in his home state of California. The decision came after two years of court battles with a group known as Friends of the Parks, which sought to block the museum's plans to take over a stadium parking lot on the city's waterfront.
In arguing their case, the group said the project would violate the city's Lakefront Protection Ordinance, which prohibits further development "east of Lake Shore Drive." While a parking lot currently exists on the site, the conservancy group said, it may yet one day revert to green space, while the museum would never be torn down.
"No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot," Lucas said in a statement. "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 Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which George Lucas is personally funding, has from the beginning set its sights on becoming one of the most sustainable art developments in the world. The now-defunct Chicago site would have covered more than 17.5 acres of waterfront, replacing the asphalt parking lot with an additional 4.5 acres of new parkland. Revised plans submitted last fall scaled back the building's size even further, adding more green space in the form of an "event prairie" and large expanses of trees and other native plantings.
Inside, Lucas planned to create the world's "largest interactive museum," with sections dedicated not only to "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and other films from his catalog, but also his extensive collections of artwork by by Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth and many more. Over time, he also expects the museum to accrue a $400 million endowment.
In a statement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lamented the loss of what he called a "once-in-a-generation opportunity."
"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," he said.
According to sources, Lucas will once again revisit sites on San Francisco's Treasure Island and along the Los Angeles waterfront. Once a new location is chosen, construction is expected to take four years.