For a city that likes to engage in rhetoric about how significant, important and world-class we are, Chicago seems quite pathetic in its attempts to suck up to the interests that want to develop a pop culture museum of sorts created by the film maker who gave us “Star Wars.”
Now that the courts have tied up the efforts to develop the George Lucas museum on the shores of Lake Michigan in space now used as parking lots for Soldier Field, Mayor Rahm Emanuel doesn’t want to see the project go elsewhere.
WHICH IS WHY Emanuel is offering up a proposal by which a portion of the McCormick Place convention center would be demolished and the museum built on that site.
It would still be a lakefront site, albeit about a mile further south than the site Lucas had envisioned when he originally shifted his focus to Chicago as a location for the museum he envisions as providing a physical home to the artifacts that comprise his physical legacy.
And for all I know, there may be people who consider themselves lakefront preservationists who will like this idea. They always have considered McCormick Place to be an aberration that ruins their vision of a Chicago shoreline consisting of nothing but pristine beaches for public use.
In short, the ones who look to the south and see what Indiana did with their Lake Michigan shoreline and shudder in disgust at the steel mills and other heavy industry that exists there.
BUT I HAVE to admit that the structure in particular that Emanuel talks of demolishing is, in my mind, the key to the whole McCormick Place complex. And I fear tampering with the facility that does bring in so much business to Chicago.
It is worth more to the city than anyone one museum could ever attract here. The Lucas name isn’t worth that much!
There’s also the fact that the politicking to accomplish this project will be intense, and there will be several people whose knee-jerk reaction will be to vote “no.” Just because.
The fact that it would be for Chicago will urge many to reject the idea out-of-hand, largely because they come from such small-scale communities that could never fathom of such a project for themselves.
BUT THIS TALKS about over $1 billion in borrowing, and taking out some five different loans in order to repay that money. At least according to the scheme that Emanuel has cooked up to try to provide the site to ensure that Rahm doesn’t suffer the embarrassment of “losing” George Lucas.
Because that is what all this rhetoric is about. Emanuel wants to be able to bag the project for Chicago that already has turned down San Francisco. Rahm sees this as a political plus.
Perhaps he envisions the blow to Chicago’s collective ego that was suffered several years ago by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley when the summer Olympics decided that South America was a preferable site to Chicago’s South Side for this year’s Olympic Games.
Although that loss (which some activist types still like to credit themselves for causing) is of a much larger scale than having Lucas decide he’ll move on to a third city to consider his ego-boosting legacy museum.
THE FACT IS that while I like the idea of attractions coming to Chicago, I happen to think there’s only so much groveling the city ought to engage in.
Lucas already turned down his preferred city, and while some speculate his Chicago-native wife is a strong influence, he’s ultimately going to go to where the biggest payoff is.
Chicago will remain Chicago regardless of whether this project locates here.
And if Lucas does wind up deciding to go elsewhere, I could envision the day coming when he’d regret his decision because he’d be stuck in some second-rate city rather than on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan.