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Kamin: Put the Lucas Museum Over the Train Tracks

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The Chicago Tribune architecture critic proposes a track-capping move west to connect McCormick Place to the lakefront.

In a recent editorial piece, Chicago Tribune architecture columnist Blair Kamin suggested an alternative location for the controversial Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Kamin points to an ambitious idea by local architect Thomas Hickey to move the proposed cultural institution slightly west of the hotly contested harbor-side parking lot. Instead, Hickey’s rough sketch envisions the museum bridging the Illinois Central railroad tracks that run adjacent to Lake Shore Drive and the Museum Campus — effectively moving the site off the official lakefront and the public land trust.

While the building’s futuristic anthill design could remain largely unchanged, the new vision would feature a number of tendril-like pedestrian ramps fanning out from its center to connect the burgeoning entertainment district at McCormick Place to the west with the protected lakefront parkland to the east. Though expensive feats of engineering, the process of decking over tracks to create public space is not without precedent in Chicago as one only needs to look at Millennium Park as an example. A similar idea to cap the Kennedy Expressway with a new park to better connect the West Loop to downtown has also been in early discussion for a number of years.

Prohibitive cost aside, Hickey’s vision for the museum runs into direct competition with a plan already afoot to cap and develop the tracks in question. Dubbed the Gateway project, developer Gerald Fogelson and Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises hope to deck over the very same rail lines to construct 3,000 new residential units across a number of highrise buildings. Fogelson and company were still seeking financial partners for the $3 billion project back in October so it is still unclear how close Gateway is to becoming reality.

Kamin, who has been a long-time critic of both the musuem as well as the aggressive steps taken by City Hall to move the project forward, also voiced his disagreement with comments by Mayor Emanuel and an online petition seeking to "demonize" the efforts of Friends of the Parks. The non-profit group is currently engaged in a lawsuit to block construction of the city-approved lakefront museum.

·Mr. Mayor, move the Lucas Museum off the lakefront, stop demonizing parks group [Chicago Tribune]

·Petition Urges Friends of the Parks to Halt Lawsuit Against Lakefront Lucas Museum [Curbed Chicago]

·Lucas Museum Reps Are Looking at Other Cities for Project [Curbed Chicago]