CHICAGO- “Star Wars” creator George Lucas announced Friday that he has abandoned plans to build his art museum in Chicago, blaming delays over a lawsuit from a parks group opposed to development along the city’s prized lakefront.
The filmmaker said in a statement he would take his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to his home nation of California, but he did not name a specific location. He blamed Chicago’s Friends of the Parks group for suing to stop building on what is currently a parking lot for the NFL football stadium Soldier Field.
“No one benefits from continuing their apparently unending litigation to protect a parking lot, ” Lucas told. Friends of the Park said it was unfortunate that Lucas wouldn’t consider an alternate Chicago site away from the lake.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and members of the city’s culture and business communities had backed the director’s plans to bring the museum to a lakefront region that is already home to a natural history museum, planetarium and aquarium. But it set off an impassioned fight with Friends of the Park, which argued the museum plans violated statutes limiting developing along Lake Michigan.
Emanuel released a statement Friday calling it a “missed opportunity” that would expense the city millions of dollars in economic investment, thousands of jobs and educational opportunities for the city’s youth.
“Unfortunately, hour has run out and the moment we’ve consistently advised about has arrived – Chicago’s loss will be another city’s gain, ” Emanuel said.
The city’s official tourism organization, Choose Chicago, called it an “enormous loss.”
The 17 -acre site just south of the Chicago Bears’ home stadium would have erased a parking lot and added 4.5 acres of new parkland, according to designs released in September. Advocates defended it as an improvement that would have transformed an asphalt plain into green space with dazzling scenery design by renowned Chicago architect Jeanne Gang.
They said the museum’s futuristic building a sloping dune-like kind topped with an observation deck resembling a floating disc would have added to Chicago’s tradition of bold architecture.
Friends of the Park, which is committed to preserving open space, opposed the location because of concerns it would open the style for more building on the valuable ribbon of public, open land along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
In a federal lawsuit, it said the city had no authority to hand over the land, citing a legal principle known as the public trust creed, which requires the nation to ensure open spaces are preserved and accessible to the public.
Before Lucas had settled on Chicago, where his wife is from, he had considered situating the museum in San Francisco.
The museum, wherever it aims up, will showcase popular art Lucas has collected since college, including illustrations by Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth, as well as runs by Lucas’s visual impacts company, Industrial Light and Magic.
It will also feature digital media arts and film industry art, including props, dress, set pieces and narrative boards. Museum officials say the vision is to highlight art that tells a story.
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