George Lucas abandons Chicago, will build new museum in California

The drama surrounding George Lucas' planned $700-million museum has become more intense than a showdown between rebel fighters and forces of the Empire.

Officials at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art announced Friday that they are no longer considering Chicago as a site for the museum and that California will be the project's future home.

The museum cited "extensive delays" caused by legal action brought by Friends of the Parks, a Chicago activist group that opposed the "Star Wars" filmmaker's attempts to construct his museum on sites near the shores of Lake Michigan.

Museum officials are now exploring building on a site on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Los Angeles also is one of the cities under consideration, they said.

"We continue to be in touch with the Lucas organization and have let them know that the government of San Francisco is united in its desire to roll out the welcome mat," Aaron Peskin, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said in an interview.

Lucas officials are working on redesigning the project for the site on Treasure Island, Peskin said. "But everything is still in its infancy."

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement on Friday that Lucas' museum "would be perfect for Los Angeles. Tens of millions of people visit our city every year — and L.A. has unquestioned stature as a world arts capital, thanks to institutions like the Broad, the Getty, MOCA and LACMA."

Garcetti had previously proposed the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, located near USC, as a potential site for the museum.

“Actions initiated by [Friends of the Parks] and their recent attempts to extract concessions from the city have effectively overridden approvals received from numerous democratically elected bodies of government," Lucas said in the announcement Friday.

The filmmaker had previously considered a site at San Francisco’s Presidio but ran into obstacles with the trust that oversees the park. He then took his project to Chicago, the hometown of his wife, Mellody Hobson

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will explore the intersection of storytelling and visual arts through exhibitions and displays that are expected to include items from the director’s personal collection.

It also will feature exhibitions devoted to the cinematic and digital arts.

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david.ng@latimes.com

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