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Developer wanted Lucas Museum at former US Steel South Works site

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A recent dump of private emails from Mayor Emanuel has given the public a view into the Lucas Museum quagmire


Before George Lucas pulled the plug on his proposal to build a pricey new museum dedicated to the art of American storytelling in Chicago, there were a number of last ditch efforts to save the plan. Most famously, Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested demolishing the aging Lakeside Center at McCormick Place and have Lucas’ museum built there. However, the idea represented more than a technical challenge, it would have simply been a financial disaster.

Earlier this year, developer Dan McCaffery, who at the time was working with US Steel to find a new use for their former South Works site, reached out to the mayor to make a case for the Lucas museum at the former industrial site. The message, along with thousands of others, has been made public through a recent dump of emails from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s private email account in order to settle a suit from the Better Government Association.

In his message, McCaffery included the renderings from architecture firm SOM that his team had drafted for an unsolicited bid for the Obama Library. The developer had an ambitious vision for the vacant industrial property and had previously proposed 13,000 homes and 17.5 million square feet of retail to be built in phases over 25 years at the staggering cost of $4 billion. An Obama library or Lucas museum would have certainly become the crown jewel of any new development at the 600-acre site.

But as we all know, George Lucas ditched Chicago after being unable to come to an agreement with the Friends of the Parks group on where the museum should be built. While McCaffery’s plea to the mayor to have Lucas consider the former US Steel South Works site was certainly a Hail Mary ask, you can’t blame the developer for at least giving it a shot. Just weeks after reaching out the mayor, McCaffery split with partner US Steel and abandoned the wildly ambitious Chicago Lakeside Development.