'Star Wars' creator selects Chicago over SF for museum

Byby Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
San Francisco loses bid to house Lucas' Star Wars collection
Many believe San Francisco blew a rare opportunity by letting Lucas take his museum to another galaxy far, far away.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The force was not with San Francisco when it lost a bid to build a museum to house filmmaker George Lucas' huge collection of art and Hollywood memorabilia. The winning city is Chicago.

Many believe San Francisco blew a rare opportunity by letting Lucas take his museum to another galaxy far, far away.

Lucas wanted a place to house his massive collection of "Star Wars" and Hollywood movie memorabilia, not to mention his amazing art collection by American masters. Lucas said in a written statement that he hopes to open the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in 2018.

"I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts," the statement said.

The selection was somewhat of a surprise, given Lucas' close ties to California. He is a native of the state, Lucasfilm's visual effects division is based in San Francisco and the headquarters for Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.

But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed hard for his city. And Chicago was always given a good chance at the Lucas museum, in large part because Lucas' wife, Mellody Hobson, a prominent businesswoman, is from Chicago and the city closed down Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore so the couple could host a star-studded party to celebrate after the couple's California wedding.

For the Lucas museum, Chicago offered up a slice of real estate along the lakefront that is near other attractions, including the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.

Emanuel has long been trying to portray Chicago as a global destination. Throughout the decision process, a spokesman for Lucas praised the city for the attention it heaps on culture, architecture, innovations and education - some of which are the themes Lucas' museum will seek to promote.

"Chicago's a great city. We have a tradition that resonates closely with the way George Lucas has described his museum, as a museum of visual storytelling," said Gillian Darlow, CEO of Polk Bros. Foundation and a co-chair of Chicago's site selection task force. "He wants to help inspire other people, especially kids, to have bold visions the way he did."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was thrilled. He said in a press conference Tuesday, "This is a significant score for the city. It is a significant investment and decision for George and Mellody to put a museum next to other museums."

Lucas' first choice was Crissy Field, but last winter the Presidio Land Trust turned him down cold. A frustrated Lucas was told to look elsewhere. The city scrambled for a plan B and offered up a site near Piers 30-32 where the Warriors abandoned a plan to build an arena.

There were letters of support and a sign that appeared on San Francisco City Hall begging Lucas to stay.

In a statement, Mayor Ed Lee acknowledged a rare opportunity was missed. Lee said, "I am disappointed that San Francisco will not benefit from this renowned art collection... that would have been enjoyed by our families and children for generations to come."

Tourists were stunned when we broke the news.

"You got to bring the George Lucas stuff to San Francisco. Skip Chicago, don't bring it to Chicago, bring it to San Francisco," said tourist Laurens Laudowicz said.

Businesses like Red's Java House were banking on Lucas.

"It would have been great for use, for Red's Java. It would have been perfect for us, more business," Red's Java House owner Rafael Porris said.

San Francisco seemed like the perfect fit for the Bay Area filmmaker, instead he picked a galaxy far, far away.

Emanuel plans to put Lucas' museum in parking lots south of Soldier Field, but he may have a court fight on his hands. Friends of the Parks and other organizations have vowed to fight the location, arguing it's a violation of the Lakefront Protection Ordinance which states there will be no further private development east of Lake Shore Drive.

Another concern is where the Chicago Bears fans will park, if the museum is built on the current parking lot. Emanuel says he has a plan, but isn't ready to talk about publicly just yet.

ABC affiliate WLS and the Associated Press contributed to this report.