Task Force Recommends Soldier Field Parking Lots as Site for George Lucas Museum

The plan includes moving the parking lots underneath the museum and also includes the potential to connect the structure to Northerly Island via a bridge

A task force charged by Mayor Rahm Emanuel with finding a potential location for a George Lucas museum in Chicago has recommended parking lots just south of Soldier Field.

Chicago began battling San Francisco to be the home of the museum after discussion between Lucas and leaders in San Francisco initially fell through.

The Park District-owned parking lots, which sit between the stadium and McCormick Place, are a “fitting site” for the possible museum, Emanuel said.

"Their recommendation is very thoughtful, and a fitting site for the type of museum and educational partner the city of Chicago is looking for,” he said Tuesday. “It would complete our Museum Campus, which is world class and brings people from all over the world.”

According to a co-chair on the task force, Gillian Darlow, the plan includes moving the parking lots underneath the museum and also includes the potential to connect the structure to Northerly Island via a bridge.

“Right now it’s asphalt,” Darlow said. “You think of Museum Campus as this beautiful green space, and much of it is, but this particular area is not that and so the chance to take that and put a museum there, move the parking underground and really create a lot of beautiful green space is so exciting.”

The 12-member team was tasked with determining a location that is easy to get to and large enough to host a museum comparable to the city's other major cultural institutions. In addition, the site must not require taxpayer dollars to pay for it.

Darlow said the task force completed an economic impact study and expects the museum could bring more than $2 billion in 10 years in tourism revenue alone, if Chicago is chosen.

"I fully endorse the recommendation, and will continue to work with the museum community, its leadership and the community leaders and local stake holders,” Emanuel said. “It's a win win for the city of Chicago, for our neighborhood, and for George and Mellody Lucas to see the city of Chicago as their home for this great museum.”

The museum would feature an exhibit with props, costumes and designs from Lucas' films. Other exhibits would feature digital art and pieces from Lucas's private art collection, which includes modern masterpieces created by the likes of Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth.

The Chicago Bears said they are involved in the process, and are working to make sure fans' needs are also met.

“Mayor Emanuel called us to stress his commitment to working together to create a win-win situation for everyone," the team said in a statement. "Continuing to improve the Soldier Field experience for Bears fans and the many others who attend events throughout the year remains our priority. We look forward to collaborating to achieve both goals. We appreciate the relationship we have with the Mayor’s office and the Chicago Park District. We love Chicago and a museum of this caliber would be a great addition to the city.”

Lucas would pay the $300 million price tag for this museum out of his own pocket and would endow another $400 million to keep it running.

Lucas, 69, already has ties to Chicago. He and his wife, Mellody Hobson, in February donated $25 million to the University of Chicago. Hobson is the president of the Chicago firm Ariel Investments. The filmmaker last year donated another $25 million to After School Matters, the charity created by former Chicago first lady Maggie Daley.

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