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McCormick Place Plan For Lucas Museum Under Scrutiny

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Fiscal watchdogs are giving poor marks to Mayor Emanuel's billion dollar plan for the Lucas Museum.

The mayor wants to tear down McCormick Place East to make room for the museum after the group Friends of the Parks objected to the original sire south of Soldier Field. But CBS 2's Jim Williams reports it's going to be a tough sell.

For Mayor Emanuel, it's high stakes competition for tourism dollars.

"Neither Vegas, Orlando, New York are resting on their laurels," Emanuel said. "They are investing in their future to compete for the same business we're competing for."


The mayor says visitors would pick up a large chunk of the tab by paying taxes and fees already in place: taxes on hotels, downtown restaurants, rental cars plus a $4 fee on cabs going to the airports. All would be extended until 2066.

Emanuel is also asking for a state convention subsidy of $15 million a year through 2023.

Laurence Msall of the Civic Federations calls it an "extraordinary request."

"Until the governor and legislature come to a consensus on how to prioritize spending -- very difficult to see how this project or any other important project for the city gets addressed," Msall said.

The fiscally conservative Illinois Policy Institute calls it a non-starter.

"We have serious financial problems," said Michael Lucci. "Our public schools are junk rated bonds. Our city general obligation bonds are headed toward junk rated. There's not capacity to borrow here."

But Mellody Hobson, business executive, civic leader, and wife of George Lucas endorses the McCormick Place location.

"It remains close to the other museums," Hobson said. "We want it to be on the Museum Campus. We can beautify the area. We'll add 12 acres of park that do not exist there right now."

George Lucas himself would pay $743 million to build his museum and even though visitors would largely pay the hospitality taxes. One Republican lawmaker told us it's going to be hard to get it past the General Assembly, especially in an election year.

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