FOR George Lucas, Chicago might as well be a galaxy far, far away.
The “Star Wars” creator invented an entire sci-fi universe and multibillion-dollar empire. But he could not manage to build his legacy museum in the US city.
Thwarted by local politics, the 72-year-old filmmaker said Friday that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would now be built somewhere in California.
Lucas had planned to spend some US$700 million of his own fortune to build the museum on prime real estate along Lake Michigan, which the city offered to lease for 99 years at a price of US$10.
That plan, which would have seen the museum replace a parking lot, went awry soon after it was announced in 2014 when a local preservation group sued to prevent construction.
The group contended that the museum, which would have replaced a parking lot, should be built at another site away from the lakefront, which is considered land reserved for public use.
Lucas on Friday strongly criticized the group’s stance.
“No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” he said in a statement.
The filmmaker had hoped to display his formidable art collection that focuses on narrative forms such as comic art, photography, film, and magazine illustrations, as well as “Star Wars” memorabilia.
The museum also would have included his collection of paintings by Norman Rockwell – the celebrated 20th century master illustrator of everyday American life.
But plans were stopped in their tracks when US District Judge John Darrah refused to dismiss the case against Lucas, saying there was a persuasive argument that the proposed museum would “impair public interest in the land.”
Attempts to negotiate between the parties soon thereafter stalled.
Within minutes of Lucas’ announcement Friday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lamented the loss of “a gift worth approximately US$1.5 billion.”
“Chicago’s loss will be another city’s gain,” Emanuel said in a statement. “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.”
Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, the group that brought the suit, reiterated that point.
“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,” Irizarry said.
The lakefront was supposed to have been one of the museum’s key draws, putting it in close proximity to other institutions with which it hoped to collaborate, including the Art Institute of Chicago.
Lucas’ previous efforts to build the museum on federal parkland in San Francisco also failed. â€” AFP