Tuesday afternoon, Chicago’s media outlets fell all over each other to be the first to report that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (formerly the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum) is coming to Chicago. While most media outlets branded their story “exclusive” or “first” or “breaking,” it looks like it was Michael Sneed at the Sun-Times who actually got the scoop and published it first.
Everyone is calling it “official,” but that’s not exactly true. The museum board in California must still approve. So must Chicago’s Plan Commission. Then there are the 50 hands being held out at City Hall as each of Chicago’s aldermen demand a piece of the action from a tourist attraction expected to draw millions of new visitors. Even then, it is likely to face court challenges from those opposed to building any new structures in Chicago’s lakeside parks.
According to the Chicago Tribune, one big reason Mr. Lucas chose Chicago over his native California was because Chicago brings in almost three times as many tourists as San Francisco does. That will allow the museum to expose far more people to the museum’s collection of half a million artifacts.
The cost of the new museum could exceed $1 billion, and bring in an additional $2-$2.5 billion a year in spending by tourists.
The new museum won’t be in the Museum Campus exactly. It will be slightly south, filling in the gap between Soldier Field and McCormick Place. The location was chosen by a city task force.
That “accessible” site is right now a parking lot used for football games and other Soldier Field events. What shape the museum takes is one of the more eagerly awaited details. No architect has been chosen yet, but Lucas fans and architecture nerds are both hoping for a something a little less Field Museum and little more Disney Hall.
We’ll find out in a few short months when the paperwork is filed with the city. If that seems quick, it’s because the museum foundation hopes to have the facility open by 2018.
Because of its location, it would be a shame if the building didn’t have massive curving windows to take in the views of Chicago’s skyline, Lake Michigan, and northern Indiana. OK, maybe not Indiana. But a man whose imagination inspired so many other people’s imaginations certainly deserves a building unlike anything Chicago has seen before.