CHICAGO (CBS) — George Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson appear to have pulled the plug on plans for their museum in Chicago.
In a terse statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Hobson said: “From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group.
“We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago. If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone.”
The Friends of the Parks had filed a lawsuit, first challenging the original location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art –a parking lot between McCormick Place and Solider Field.
Following the lawsuit, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered a compromise plan: Replace the aging McCormick Place Lakeside Center with the museum and 12 acres of new park land.
It would have required state lawmakers and the governor to authorize a series of tax hikes, as well as $1.2 billion in new borrowing for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place.
Friends of the Parks didn’t like that plan, either.
The group wanted the city to investigate other possible sites off the lakefront – including the vacant Michael Reese Hospital property, a location west of Lake Shore Drive across from the original proposed Lucas Museum site, or a 28-acre truck marshalling yard just east of the Reese site.
FOTP President Juanita Irizarry said the Michael Reese Hospital site would provide just as many economic benefits without violating existing lakefront protections.
Emanuel has said he does not want to see Chicago to lose the Lucas Museum to Los Angeles or San Francisco, should George Lucas decide to pull out over the legal challenge to his preferred site.
“They’ve been inconsistent and also contradictory in their statements and they have put at risk for the city something that all of us would benefit from,” Emanuel said.
Lee Bey, an architecture critic and former member of the mayor’s Lucas Museum Task Force, says the Friends of Parks shouldn’t be painted as the bad guys.
“This is what they do,” he said. “The battles they’ve won in the past have helped us to enjoy the park lands in the city that we enjoy.”
Here is Hobson’s full statement:
“My husband and I have worked in earnest for two years, side-by-side with every relevant city agency, community leader, and policy maker, to give what would be the largest philanthropic gift to an American city in the 21st century. From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group. When the Friends of the Parks sued the city in order to preserve a parking lot, we were offered a different and feasible solution—the replacement of an underutilized and outdated convention space that would also add more than 12 acres of new parkland. Yet, even with this additional park space, an organization that claims to ‘preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open space’ now opposes this as well. While they claim to be a ‘strong steward of Chicago and a partner to its progress,’ their actions and decision rob our state of more than $2 billion in economic benefits, thousands of jobs and countless educational opportunities for children and adults alike.
As an African American who has spent my entire life in this city I love, it saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer. As Chair of the Board of After School Matters, which serves 15,000 public high school students in Chicago and has more demand than can ever be met, I have seen firsthand what art can do to spur imagination and creativity, heal the soul and advance society—something so needed right now. This is a city of big shoulders and a metropolis that is second to none. In refusing to accept the extraordinary public benefits of the museum, the Friends of the Parks has proven itself to be no friend of Chicago. We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago. If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone.”