Ground Lease Approved For Chicago’s New George Lucas Museum Of Narrative Art

The Force must be with George Lucas, as Chicago Park District officials unanimously approved a 99-year lease for a new $400 million-plus Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, despite fierce opposition from those who say it would take even more dedicated parkland away from the city’s already crowded museum campus, reported the Chicago Tribune.

According to the report, the next step for Lucas is to defeat a federal lawsuit from Friends of the Parks, a group that is seeking to block the museum project from moving forward. The privately financed project is scheduled to open in late 2019 or early 2020 and would feature more than 300,000 square feet of visual storytelling and filmmaking museum space.

In a statement to local news source DNAinfo Chicago, Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly supported the George Lucas museum project, comparing it to some of the other museums that operate on city parkland.

“For some of you this may not be an easy vote, but in my history with the Chicago Park District, neither was the Museum of Contemporary Art, the conversion of Meigs Field to Northerly Island, and most recently, the Obama Presidential Center. This is a chance to make history for the city of Chicago.”

Kelly, along with Lucas Museum officials, made a final pitch in support of the project when they spoke to the park board before last Wednesday’s vote. Although this is a huge step, Juanita Irazarry, who serves as executive director of Friends of the Parks, told DNAinfo Chicago the board’s approval will not prevent them from moving forward with the lawsuit.

“We’ll see [the city] in court. We’re just excited to get to discovery and the opportunity to argue the merits of the case before a judge.”

If the lawsuit proves to be unsuccessful and the project moves forward as planned, the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will include a 300,000-square-foot, four-story campus that is focused on visual storytelling. The space will include three theaters, a library, and an education center, as well as public amenities such as a new park, tailgating space for fans to utilize during Bears games, a rooftop restaurant, and an observation deck.

In a rendering, the proposed design is shown to be sleek and modern, with graceful curves and a space-age feel. It will be built near Chicago’s lakefront close to Soldier Field and will offer 52 days of free entry every year, just like the other local museums on city parkland.

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Lucas Museum spokesman Jeff Philips told DNAinfo Chicago that despite protests from naysayers, the project will actually convert park of the parklands into a more usable space that will prove to be an asset for city residents and tourism.

“The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be an iconic addition to the Museum Campus and will transform the current site from a barren asphalt parking lot into a usable green space for everyone to enjoy. Indeed, Chicago residents will gain nearly 200,000 square feet of new parkland thanks to this project. We continue to work in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago to ensure the development is a success, and the Park District Board meeting is another important step in the public process.”

The Chicago Tribune also reported that Senior Traffic Engineer Chris Hutchinson of Terra Engineering said most visitors would use East 18th Drive to get to the museum, which would have a small impact on traffic. In addition, Design Principal Juliane Wolf of Studio Gang revealed the George Lucas Museum’s landscaping plan incorporates a natural habitat for migrating birds and will filter water through a multi-layer eco-park.

[Photo by Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images]