Another TLA Backs the Lucas Museum, If That Helps At All

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

The head of a national museum group is throwing her weight behind building the proposed, but looking more and more unlikely, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago.  Laura Lott, the C.E.O. of the American Alliance of Museums calls the $700 million project “a golden opportunity for the community”  in a statement posted on the Lucas Museum’s website.

The museum project is currently in limbo, with gadflies Friends of the Parks threatening legal action to block any attempt to build the museum on the city’s lakefront, and the Lucas family threatening to take their money elsewhere.  Meanwhile, other cities are tugging at Mr. Lucas coattails like Dickensian children hoping for tuppence and a scrap of his special bread.  Chatter around the halls of power these days is that a city in Texas may be next to make a play for the museum, but we haven’t been able to nail anything down on that yet.

Ms. Lott’s screed brings up some salient points, especially in the paragraph where she states, “In Chicago alone, museums contribute $850 million to the local economy, directly employ 4,000 people and contribute $38 million in city tax revenue (plus an equal amount to the state).”

That’s all fine and good, but the bulk of Ms. Lott’s letter is the equivalent of a strawman attack against the Friends of the Parks.  She talks about economic impact, and cultural impact, and social impact, and all the good things the new Lucas Museum will mean to the city.  But what she doesn’t address is the one thing that the whole debate hinges on: Building another museum on Chicago’s lakefront.

Museum supporters can talk till they’re blue in the face about what the Lucas loot will mean to the city.  But until they come up with a convincing counter-argument to the FotP’s lakefront land reasoning, it’s all a bunch of wasted effort.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. Wish someone would do a comprehensive survey on whether the FOTP actually has the support of the public. Everyone I talk to is in favor of the museum being built on the lakefront, haven’t met a single person against it.

    Or is all the negativity against the museum being built from just this one group.

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    • I agree. I’ve never understood the outsized power / influence that this unelected, self-appointed group wields.

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  2. Editor:

    You ask for a convincing argument why the Lucas Museum should be built, yet that argument has been promulgated repeatedly, though apparently to deaf ears. A museum will enliven the Lakefront, something the current parking lot does not and cannot do.

    This museum proposal includes the creation of a park, making the area around it more functional and enjoyable. It will be a logical extension of Chicago’s Museum Campus. This museum WILL NOT diminish access to the lakefront, it will enhance it, enriching the urban experience that locals and worldwide tourists expect in a great city. And it will provide a learning center for children––and adults; try getting a parking lot to do that! You acknowledge the financial benefits, which are also extremely important for Chicago given the fiscal debacle the city’s in. Combine these multiple benefits and I just cannot fathom why you or FOtP would oppose it.

    My question to you and to the grossly misnamed Friends of the Parks is, give the rest of us a legitimate reason NOT to build it. The self-righteous argument that it’s a “private” museum on public land is absolutely irrelevant. If the museum isn’t a good fit for the space, then by all means tell us what is? The dead parking lot? And the argument that it somehow will deny access to the lakefront is fallacious.

    None of the opponents have ever explained precisely how it will prevent access, or why a private museum being built on city land is so antithetical to the land use in place currently, or what higher use could be accomplished instead. Why anyone is so insistent about preserving a waterfront surface parking lot without a plan for something better shows the fact that it’s merely an agenda by and for the people blocking its development.

    As Mike says above, I haven’t talked to a single Chicagoan who doesn’t want the museum built where it was proposed. FOtP presumes to speak for the whole city, but if there were a vote of the actual people of Chicago, it would get built immediately.

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    • Editor

      Hi Freddy. I didn’t ask for “a convincing argument why the Lucas Museum should be built.” I asked for “a convincing counter-argument to the FotP’s lakefront land reasoning.”

      And that’s the reason this isn’t moving forward. Each side is arguing a different point, and not addressing the other’s.

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  3. “a convincing counter-argument to the FotP’s lakefront land reasoning.”

    Actually the counterargument is simple……. Lucas will take his museum to another city. He wanted property on the shoreline of Chicago for his museum, he didn’t get it and now the museum is moving to Texas or back to California.

    So now the lakefront keeps a parking lot nobody uses 99.9% of the time instead of a museum that the city, suburbs, and nation would visit and enjoy. Heck, anything is better then some asphalt.

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