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Rejected by Chicago, George Lucas museum gets OK from Los Angeles city council

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The filmmaker claims he and spouse Mellody Hobson were “heartbroken” after Chicagoans “said no”

MAD Architects

After striking out in Chicago, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is officially headed to Exposition Park in Los Angeles. The privately-funded project had Chicagoans fiercely divided when it broke cover in late 2015 for both its polarizing design from Ma Yansong of MAD Architects as well as its controversial proposed placement on Chicago’s supposedly “forever open, clear, and free” lakefront.

Slated to replace the surface parking lot between Soldier Field and McCormick Place’s Lakeside Center convention hall, the Chicago plan was challenged in court by open space advocate group Friends of the Park.

Though approved by elected officials on both the city and state level, the lawsuit exhausted the patience of Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson. The couple abandoned their dream of building the museum in Chicago last fall and considering alternative sites on the West Coast, ultimately landing on LA.

MAD Architects

For LA’s Exposition Park, MAD ditched the “ant hill” look of the Chicago plan for more of a swooping, flying saucer-like design that appears to float over the landscape. Meanwhile, Lucas adopted a different approach and attitude towards engaging the local community. Contrary to the Chicago saga which primarily involved closed-door meetings with City Hall officials, Mr. Lucas made a greater effort to personally go on the record and help sell the idea to the public.

The filmmaker made an in-person appearance before the Los Angeles city council yesterday and explained that the museum will focus on more than simply the director’s own movies, but also on the history of storytelling and how popular art acts as a sort of “glue” that holds modern societies together, reported the Chicago Tribune. Apparently the pitch worked as the council unanimously approved the $1.5 billion privately funded project.

Despite LA being the billionaire’s third choice after coming up short in both Chicago and San Francisco, Lucas touched on his deep ties to the area that he forged during his years studying film at USC. "That's where I learned movies. That's where I learned my craft. Basically where I started my career was in school here," he told the council Tuesday.

“I wanted to put it in my hometown [of San Francisco]. They said no. Mellody wanted to put it in her hometown [of Chicago]. They said no. We were both basically heartbroken,” explained the Star Wars creator. “And then we said, 'All right, let's clear the boards and find a place that really wants it.’”

Construction of the Los Angeles museum is expected to start as early as this year with completion slated for 2021.