Friends of the Parks has made some powerful enemies – including Mayor Rahm Emanuel – with its continuing opposition to any lakefront site for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. The mayor’s office said last week that the preservation group's “inconsistent and incoherent positions” have made them impossible to work with.
But Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, apparently isn't feeling the heat. "We're comfortable with where we stand on the issue, and donations are up and we are feeling like a lot of Chicagoans are behind us," she said.
Friends of the Parks has said that it does not support a new proposal to build the museum at the site of McCormick Place East.
“We’d love to see a park there, certainly. But we don’t think, however, that fixing the mistake that was putting McCormick Place East there is fixed by creating a new building there,” Irizarry told host Carol Marin on “Chicago Tonight.”
Emanuel and many others are keen on bringing the museum to Chicago along with all of the jobs and multimillion-dollar investment that comes with it. But movie mogul and “Star Wars” director George Lucas is reportedly ready to look elsewhere, having grown weary of opposition to the project.
After that announcement, Emanuel made a last-ditch legal move to try and keep the museum in Chicago by asking an appeals court to throw out the preservation’s group lawsuit entirely.
Meanwhile, the legal battle over the original lakefront site proposed for the project, adjacent to Soldier Field, drags on (a hearing slated for Tuesday was rescheduled to June 15).
Carol Summerfield, chief strategy officer and director for the Chicago-based Museum Revolution, recently wrote an editorial about why the museum should reside on the Museum Campus.
She argues that, “The farther away the Lucas Museum is built from other cultural institutions, the less likely it will draw a crowd. Easy tourist access can be the difference between a museum that thrives and one that is empty.”
“The option that you look at if you’re a museum and you build there is that you have to create a city within a city, because the amenities are not going to be there,” Summerfield told Marin. “You get a sealed environment in which it might provide business opportunities for people who work within the space, but what you’re not going to do is actually see the lift in the surrounding communities.”
Friends of the Parks has said it supports putting the museum on the former site of the Michael Reese hospital.
“It’s not very far from the existing campus of museums, and it adds things to the Bronzeville community and other things happening in that area,” Irizarry said.
But Summerfield said that’s a challenged site for a couple of reasons.
“One is that it is going to be something that is unlikely to pull tourists in. It is just far enough away, and it’s a neighborhood in which the Lucas Museum becomes the reason for the neighborhood to lift, as opposed to both of them working symbiotically."
Related 'Chicago Tonight' content
May 4: After Friends of the Parks declared its opposition to any lakefront site for the Lucas Museum, Mellody Hobson, wife of movie mogul George Lucas and board member of the Lucas Museum, said they were “seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.”
May 3: “We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago,” Mellody Hobson, wife of movie mogul George Lucas and board member of the Lucas Museum, said in a statement. “If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone.”
April 26: As Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes McCormick Place as the new location for the Lucas Musuem, a group of faith and community leaders met Tuesday to throw their support behind the plan. WBEZ's Lauren Chooljian will bring us the latest.
April 18: The Chicago Tribune's Pulitzer prize-winning architecture critic discusses a new lakefront proposal for the Lucas Museum and architecturally significant churches like St. Adalbert's in Pilsen that preservationists warn are at risk.
April 15: A new lakefront location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is being proposed in Chicago. Mellody Hobson, wife of movie mogul George Lucas and board member of the Lucas Museum, calls it a “good idea.”
Feb. 25: Earlier this month, a judge denied the city of Chicago's motion to let Lucas Museum construction begin on its proposed lakefront site. We speak with the head of Friends of the Parks, the nonprofit which filed the lawsuit.
Feb. 23: Fr. Michael Pfleger took to social media on Tuesday to openly criticize nonprofit Friends of the Parks for the continued legal delays preventing film mogul George Lucas from starting construction on his proposed lakefront museum. Do you think the construction holdup is warranted?
As Lucas Museum Eyes Other Locations, City Pushes for Construction to Begin
Feb. 17: During a Wednesday court hearing, an attorney representing the city of Chicago said museum officials are considering other locations, including other cities for the project.
Case Against Lucas Museum Moves Forward
Feb. 4: The city's move to dismiss a case against the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was thrown out Thursday in federal court, paving the way for a longer fight and potentially delaying the museum's spring construction plans.
Lucas Museum Passes City Council, Could Break Ground By Spring
Oct. 28, 2015: Though almost unanimously approved Wednesday, the museum could still be stopped by a pending lawsuit.