Remember a time last summer, when Chicago and Rahm were plain giddy about the Lucas Museum landing on the lakefront, and a flurry of Obama Library proposals suggested the institution would no doubt have a "606" zip code? After this weekend, that seemed like a long time ago in a city far, far away. On Friday, during a press tour for his new movie Strange Magic, filmmaker George Lucas let slip that uncertainty caused by lawsuits and legal battles over his museum means "it's still a possibility that Chicago will be unable to do it," and he has his eye on L.A. and the USC campus, since he wants to get it done in his lifetime and avoid the "rigmarole" of a protracted fight to get it built.
Of course another city would be in the running if the lawsuit attacking Rahm's sweetheart land deal, leasing prime lakefront land for $1, stands ground (a judge is ruling on the city's move to dismiss on Feb. 26). But it just adds to Chicago's anxiety over the troubled Obama Library bid, which is now national news. Losing out on a museum from the guy who created Jar Jar Binks is one thing; being passed over by Barry because of a less-than-stellar bid would sting.
You could say the common link between the two issues is parkland. In the case of the Lucas Museum, it's fervent opposition from the Friends of the Parks and others seeking to maintain Chicago's "forever open, free, and clear" policy and leave the lakefront unspoiled. In the case of the library bid, it's the University of Chicago's submission, which requires land in Jackson or Washington Park it does not currently own, a complication the Obama Foundation doesn't want (and explicitly said as much in its request).
Of course, this being Chicago, it's also about powerful interests expecting their way. Rahm knew there would be a legal battle on the lakefront from the outset; as we pointed out last year, the lakefront-as-birthright concept isn't going to be set aside for a few pieces of Star Ware memorabilia. And the University of Chicago bid violated a core request of the Obama foundation, unlike cross-town rival UIC, which has a compelling set of site plans, owns the land yet struggles to gain attention since its been considered a long shot. While the mayor is working overtime to rescue the library bid, and lawyers are working to get the FOTP's lawsuit dismissed, Chicago waits to see if it's going to hear the words "second city" in regards to either of these proposed projects.
·Private Use of Public Land: Small Battles Foretell Coming War [Curbed]
·Obama Library 'Belongs' in North Lawndale, Neighborhood Leaders Say [DNAinfo]
·Chicago No Longer Seems a Lock to Host Obama's Library, and Many Are Alarmed [The New York Times]
·Previous Obama Library coverage [Curbed]
·Previous Lucas Museum coverage [Curbed]