Blaming Parks Group, Lucas Museum Withdraws From Chicago | NBC New York

Blaming Parks Group, Lucas Museum Withdraws From Chicago

"Chicago's loss will be another city's gain," Mayor Emanuel says

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    The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art announced Friday that Chicago will no longer be considered a potential site for the museum "in light of extensive delays caused by Friends of the Parks." Charlie Wojciechowski reports. (Published Friday, June 24, 2016)

    The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art announced Friday that Chicago will no longer be considered a potential site for the museum "in light of extensive delays caused by Friends of the Parks."

    The museum will instead move to California, officials said. 

    “No one benefits from continuing [Friends of the Parks] seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot,” "Star Wars" filmmaker George W. Lucas, founder and chairman of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, said in a statement. “The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government.”

    The announcement comes exactly two years to the day after Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson revealed they had chosen Chicago as the site of the highly-anticipated museum.

    "The opportunity for a city to gain a brand new museum is rare, and this particular opportunity - gift worth approximately $1.5 billion - would have been the largest philanthropic contribution in Chicago's history," Emanuel said in a statement Friday. "Unfortunately, time has run out and the moment we’ve consistently warned about has arrived – Chicago’s loss will be another city’s gain. This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago’s youth."

    Museum officials had earlier said they were "seriously pursuing" locations outside of Chicago after the parks group said it opposed any site along the city's lakefront, including a recently proposed McCormick Place Lakeside Center plan.

    A lawsuit by the group first targeted the museum's original site, located between Soldier Field and McCormick Place, but Friends of the Parks later warned it would either amend the existing lawsuit to encompass the new McCormick Place site or file a new suit.  

    Friends of the Parks had recently released a memo, however, outlining stipulations under which it would settle its lawsuit, including a legally binding promise from Chicago to protect the lakefront from development for the next century. The memo also claimed the group wants 5 percent of museum revenues allocated to park improvements.

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    “It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of the several alternative sites that are not on Chicago’s lakefront," Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and Board Chair Lauren Moltz said in a statement. "That would have been the true win-win."

    Hobson previously claimed efforts to build the museum in Chicago were “co-opted and hijacked” by Friends of the Parks.

    “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,” Hobson said in a statement. “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.”

    Still, Lucas said Friday, “While Chicago will not be home to the museum, my wife and I will continue to enthusiastically support a wide variety of educational and cultural activities throughout the city.”

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