$1 Billion George Lucas Museum Coming to Chicago? Maybe.
Mayor Emanuel wants it bad and the movie icon is in serious talks with the city after being kicked out of San Francisco's Presidio because the plans were "too big."
The proposed 95,000-square-foot Lucas Cultural Arts Museum had a dream location at San Francisco’s coveted Presidio – the Royal Fortress of Saint Francis – with views overlooking both the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge. But in February, the trust that oversees the park land rejected the site plans, its third dismissal, or three strikes against the interactive museum and Lucas’ impressive collection of art and film memorabilia. It was “too big” and “inappropriate,” ran the criticism, effectively giving the 69-year-old Star Wars inventor and billionaire a Storm Trooper-sized boot off the former military base.
The Mayor’s office was quick on the dial.
Lucas, who married Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson in 2013, has affection and affinity for Chicagoland – he keeps a home here. He's also worth an estimated $7.8 billion. And it’s this type of techie-film-museum development with a big brand legend of American filmmaking that offers the sense of elevation and prestige one assumes from marrying-up in rank, and confers a “take Chicago seriously” attitude that mayor of the Second City is on a mission to cultivate. So his office jumped in to seduce the bearded one.
The San Francisco plans worked out to $300,000. But moving to Chicago would scream a throaty $1 billion for the museum and storage for artwork that includes prized Norman Rockwell paintings and an endowment. And every cent of this exceptional philanthropic gift is from Lucas’ private funds, according to the Sun-Times.
Chicago isn’t the only sailor on Lucas’ dance card, though. Other rivals have emerged to two-step, but the Windy City is in aggressive sweet talks. (Is there any other way for this town?) There’s no site designated as yet, but senior adviser to the mayor David Spielfogel told the Sun-Times that the Lucas museum would be “[a]n incredible science, technology and educational institution center,” a huge tourist draw, and the "jewel in the crown of any city’s offering."
All that enthusiasm about plumping the Chicago cultural nest doesn’t bag the deal for the “most interactive museum ever built.” San Francisco won’t go away. (It offered another, though much less desirable site for consideration. And Lucas' original, impassioned pitch was about its significance to the Bay Area and how it "belonged" there.)
Yet, this city could use some Yoda love. So bring on the cheap jokes about the “force.”