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Did Greenspace Advocates Kill The Lucas Museum In Chicago?


Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to move the site of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to McCormick Place's Lakeside Center may be a last-ditch effort to keep the museum in Chicago. It also raises questions about whether greenspace advocates effectively killed plans to build the museum on the lakefront.

From the moment Emanuel announced plans to turn over 17 acres of lakefront property (currently a parking lot) to filmmaker George Lucas, the group Friends of the Parks has led opposition. The group filed a lawsuit seeking to halt any progress on the museum's development, arguing the plan violated Public Trust Doctrine since the State of Illinois, not the city, was the legal trustee of the lakefront.

Court rulings favoring FOTP have frustrated Lucas and the Mayor, leading Emanuel to throw out his Hail Mary last week.


Supporters of the museum argue having the Lucas Museum on the lakefront would transform an eyesore of a parking lot into a destination spot, with Jeanne Gang-designed green space that wasn't there previously.

FOTP contends there were other sites, notably the former Michael Reese Hospital site that was a linchpin of Chicago's failed 2016 Summer Olympics bid, that could better fit the museum, and wanted the parking lot to be 100% green space.

As it stands, what was once a project that Emanuel claimed wouldn't cost taxpayers a cent now needs $1.2B in bonds (pending state approval) to be saved. In a city with a budget that isn't exactly in the best place and a $600M property tax hike, that may be too much for residents to swallow, especially since some argue there are negligible benefits to vanity cultural centers.

Now critics are arguing that FOTP's commitment to its mission statement effectively killed the Lucas Museum in Chicago. An online petition asks FOTP to drop its lawsuit, but that may not sway the group now that it holds the upper hand in the legal battle.