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Lucas Museum Gives Up On Chicago Location, Moving To California

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Lucas Museum in Chicago is dead.

The museum's board on Friday, citing "extensive delays" due to opposition by Chicago's Friends of the Parks, said its future home will be in California instead.

"No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot," said George W. Lucas, founder and chairman of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. "The actions initiated by Friends of Parks and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government."

Mayor Emanuel, in a statement said:

"Two years ago to the day, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson announced that they had chosen Chicago as the site of their incredible legacy investment. The opportunity for a City to gain a brand new museum is rare, and this particular opportunity – a gift worth approximately $1.5 billion – would have been the largest philanthropic contribution in Chicago's history.

Unfortunately, time has run out and the moment we've consistently warned about has arrived – Chicago's loss will be another city's gain. This missed opportunity has not only cost us what will be a world-class cultural institution, it has cost thousands of jobs for Chicago workers, millions of dollars in economic investment and countless educational opportunities for Chicago's youth."

"It is unfortunate that the Lucas Museum has made the decision to leave Chicago rather than locate the museum on one of the several alternative sites that are not on Chicago's lakefront. That would have been the true win-win," Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry and Board Chair Lauren Moltz said in a statement.

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who now sits on the Lucas Museum board, said it was "heartbreaking" the museum won't be built in Chicago.

"You have a city that's struggling financially. It would have been fantastic to have tourists from around the world coming here. The city loses, so kids lose, adults lose," Duncan said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner also expressed his disappointment on Friday.

"I thought the location that was proposed in the parking lot south of Soldier Field was a good location; wouldn't cost taxpayers any money, and it could grow the economy," he said.

Architecture expert Lee Bey said there's plenty of blame to go around.

"I think that the Lucas Museum mechanism probably … dug in their heels a little bit too much in terms of being willing to look at other sites when this site began to go belly-up" he said.

Bey said just because the Lucas Museum plan didn't work out doesn't mean nothing can be built on the lakefront site they wanted – specifically, a parking lot between Soldier Field and McCormick Place's Lakeside Center.

"Any public use by a public agency – tax-supported agency – can be built there," he said.

The problem was, the Lucas Museum would have been under private ownership, even if it would have been open to the public and brought more green space to the lakefront.

Friends of the Parks originally filed a lawsuit challenging the first location of the museum--a parking lot to the south of Solider Field. After a judge allowed that lawsuit to proceed to trial, Emanuel offered a compromise plan: Replace the aging McCormick Place Lakeside Center with the museum and 12 acres of new park land.

It would have required state lawmakers and the governor to authorize a series of tax hikes, as well as $1.2 billion in new borrowing for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place.

Friends of the Parks didn't like that plan, either.

Then, in its latest demand, Friends of the Parks reportedly wanted 5 percent of all revenue from the Lucas Museum to go to neighborhood parks, as well as a legally-binding guarantee from the city that there would be no further development on the lakefront -- other than parks -- for the next 100 years.

In exchange, the organization would drop its objection to the Lucas Museum going where McCormick Place East is now.

Mayor Emanuel, at that point, appeared to have had enough.

"Stop negotiating inside your board, making up differences.  Because George Lucas, right now - while the clock is ticking and the sand is running through the clock … is now in discussions with other cities on the West Coast. And you could cost Chicago a significant educational and economic opportunity."

Duncan said there is no question Lucas has given up on Chicago as an option for the museum. It will now be either Los Angeles or San Francisco, which both began trying to lure the museum earlier this year.

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