Sorry, San Francisco. The force is not with you this time. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed has just written that, “Chicago is a lock for the Lucas Museum” over San Francisco and late-entrant Los Angeles. His 500,000-piece collection of American art and movie memorabilia will head to a 17-acre site near Chicago’s Soldier Field after beating out a waterfront site in San Francisco and a location near USC in Los Angeles, where Lucas went to film school.
Lucas had originally tried to place his Beaux Arts-style museum museum on a part of the Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge that currently houses a Sports Basement. But the Presidio Board who made up the decision-making committee rejected his proposal. During the process, Lucas had clearly grown frustrated with the Presidio Trust, airing his grievances to the New York Times. He told the New York Times that he was not pleased with how the Presidio Trust had treated him.
Mr. Lucas said that the Presidio staff and board had “stalled” for four years on the project and snubbed his taste in architecture as an exercise in mere “mimicking.”
“They made us jump through hoops to explain why a museum was worth having,” Mr. Lucas said. “I thought a museum was a concept that people already bought into about 200 years ago. They’re having us do as much work as we can hoping that we will give up.” Putting it bluntly, he concluded, “They hate us.”
On Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee seemed to blame the Presidio Trust’s rejection of the museum proposal at Crissy Field for Chicago’s victory.
“Earlier this year, the Presidio Trust unwisely rejected” that proposal, Lee said late Tuesday, a step that “put San Francisco’s chance at landing the museum in jeopardy.” While the Presidio Trust defended it’s actions, local fans aren’t buying it, blaming the trust for their extreme “not in my backyard” behavior and their arrogant treatment of Lucas.
San Francisco business leaders were also not happy to lose a museum that was projected to draw thousands of tourists to the waterfront. In a last ditch plea, the Chamber of Commerce urged Lucas to reconsider what is a done deal.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed building the museum on two parking lots located near Soldier Field and offered to lease the land to Lucas for $1, a similar arrangement other large cultural institutions have with the Chicago Park District.
“I can’t thank George and Mellody enough for choosing Chicago,” Emanuel said. “This will be a tremendous opportunity, a significant step for the city. No other major American city has these types of cultural and educational institutions, with a great Northerly Island creating a vibrant, green museum campus unparalleled in the United States.
“George Lucas has revolutionized the art of storytelling over the last four decades and we are honored to be the recipient of this incredible legacy investment that will allow everyone to learn about and experience narrative arts,” Emanuel said in a statement.
Emanuel said in a news conference Tuesday that the museum will serve as a partner with the city’s schools and an opportunity to create jobs. The proposal still needs to go through the Chicago Plan Commission and the earliest it would open is 2018.
Originally named the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, the future museum has been renamed the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, according to Chicago City Hall officials on Tuesday. The Lucas museum board also credited Chicago for providing a larger location; its easy accessibility to public transportation; and the fact it is centrally located in a city renowned for its love of art and architecture.The museum may be open by 2018.
“I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts and architecture,” Lucas said in a statement released Tuesday, according to DNAinfo Chicago.
“Choosing Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but a difficult decision for me personally because of my strong personal and professional roots in San Francisco,” said Lucas, who hails from Modesto, Ca. Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson, is from Chicago and the couple maintains a home there.