Over the past few months, Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has been caught in the crossfire between two groups who have very different opinions on the future home of the George Lucas Narrative Art Museum. The site in question is a 1,500-space parking lot situated north of the McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center and just south of Soldier Field. The commission for the museum was won in July of 2014 by MAD Architects. Their design proposes a large, white, sculptural “mountain” which rises up from the site and is topped by a “metallic crown”.
According to the Chicago Tribune, last week, city lawyers who support the museum asked a federal judge to lift a sanction that would prevent Emanuel from quickly demolishing the parking lot, stating that the site currently is “an asset of no civic value.”
Chicago residents in support of the museum being located on the selected site, argue that “the proposed museum will add an iconic architectural structure and additional green space to an otherwise blank, paved, and bleak city landscape,” in a petition they started on change.org. They also state that not only will the museum not cost any tax payer dollars, but it will also bring hundreds of new jobs to Chicago and generate an expected two billion dollars in tourism revenue over the next decade. As a solution to the lost surface lot parking spaces, an underground parking garage beneath the museum complex will actually increase the total number of spots available for Soldier Field parking.
On the other hand, Friends of the Park, a Chicago-based non-profit who wants to protect the site, argues that since the museum would have the option to renew the 99-year lease two times, or nearly three centuries, that land could never be turned into a public-friendly park. Their goal isn’t to save the parking lot itself, but rather to keep the future potential to turn it into a vast park. Their legal case is based on the public trust doctrine, which states that governments must protect certain natural resources for the public’s use.
Chicago-based architect Thomas Hickey has suggested an optional site that doesn't face these legal issues. His proposition builds a deck on top of the lot and railroad tracks to the west. The museum would sit on the deck, and off of the lakefront.