During a news conference Friday, Gov. Bruce Rauner said he supports building the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in its original location between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the people of Illinois to grow our economy and grow tourism,” Rauner said. “How often does somebody come along and say they’re willing to spend $700 million to build something to draw tourists.”
George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson have pledged to give $743 million to fund the project.
Rauner also noted the site’s proximity to the city’s current museum campus and the fact that the museum would be built on a parking lot, claiming the location was “all upside.”
The governor was clearly opposed to the more-recent plan for the museum, which calls for the demolition of McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center and over $1 billion in borrowing.
“In terms of other locations, clearly on the second taxpayer costs, this is not debatable,” Rauner said. “I don’t think that’s necessary, I think the first location is a good one and I think I’m an advocate for it.”
“I hope the mayor stays strong. I hope the Lucas family stays persistent and Melody stays the course and I believe they’ll win in court eventually,” he added.
The construction of the museum has been held up by a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks. The group’s main argument is that the museum’s 99-year lease wouldn’t benefit the public and would promote private and commercial interests. The group also claims the museum would detract from the city’s lakefront and add to traffic woes in the area.
Efforts to keep the museum in Chicago may be in jeopardy as the project’s organizers have reportedly resumed talks with officials in the filmmaker’s hometown of San Francisco.
“The museum will go elsewhere if the misguided lawsuit filed by Friends of The Parks is not quickly settled or dismissed,” A spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement Sunday.