To the dismay of many park enthusiasts in Chicago, both football and "Star Wars" will prevail with the building of filmmaker George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art, slated to open in 2019 on the shores of Lake Michigan.
The Chicago City Council voted Wednesday to approve the “Star Wars” creator’s zoning proposal to build a 30,000-square-foot museum near the Chicago Bears’ football stadium, Soldier Field.
After months of negotiation with the Bears over advertisement rules as well as parking and tailgating logistics, Chicago’s aldermen passed the proposal without debate. However, it was not unanimous. According to the Chicago Tribune, zoning committee chairman Alderman Daniel Solis of the 25th district named nine aldermen who wanted their rejection of the plan to be part of the record.
While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long been a strong supporter of the art and film memorabilia museum for Mr. Lucas, who is from California but married Chicago native Mellody Hobson, environmentalists and land conservation advocates oppose its construction on the basis of defending public land.
Friends of the Parks, a Chicago nonprofit organization that aims to protect public parks, sued to prevent the museum nearly two years ago, claiming that Lucas’ plans, along with the city’s park district, are violating the public trust doctrine because the museum will be built on the landfill of Lake Michigan.
In a September Facebook post, the nonprofit called the museum a “confiscation of public land.” Openlands, a conservation group that serves northeast Illinois, also denounced the shoreline construction.
“There are countless options for the Lucas Museum other than on the lakefront. Neighborhoods across Chicago, including just west of Lake Shore Drive, would welcome its whimsy, art, and economic engine,” Openlands CEO Jerry Adelmann wrote in an editorial for the Tribune.
“But there are no choices when it comes to our lakefront parks; we can't relocate the lake, and we should be resolute in our political will that we will not give away what we all value and what elected officials hold in the public trust.”
Chicago’s downtown lakefront is a beloved stretch of land, the center of which is Museum Campus, which houses the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History, as well as Soldier Field.
Critics say the Lucas Museum will disrupt plans of potential future park development, but Mr. Emmanuel has argued that it will improve the aesthetics of the area, as it’s a parking lot right now. He said it will also be a significant attraction for tourists, which will in turn lead to a boost for the museum nearby.
“The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be an incredible addition to Chicago’s Museum Campus,” Emanuel said in a statement, “the new parkland will add more open green space that will be enjoyed by residents across the city.”
The next court hearing for the Friends of the Parks lawsuit is scheduled for Nov. 10.