No matter what side you're on in the Lucas Museum mess, one thing I know for sure: YOU and Friends of the Parks did not cause it.
Who did? Look no farther than Mr. Star Wars George Lucas and Mr. Mayor Tiny Dancer. It's their fault. Two guys who think they're smarter than everyone else.
And maybe they are. We haven't seen the end of this saga yet. No one knows how it's all going to end up.
Apparently, Lucas learned nothing from his home town of San Francisco experience: that non-negotiable demands don't work. They threw him out and he came here. Knowing Tiny's reputation as a knuckle-rapping, leg-breaking, dead-fish-sending kind of guy, he figured his demand for lakefront land and to be an instant part of our Museum Campus, with all the money and glory that comes with that designation would be a done deal. No questions asked. No press conference needed.
The ignoring of public relations created the problem of public relations.
What Mr. Star Wars and Mr. Tiny didn't remember was that actual people live here. And we sort of recoil at those who use surrogates to make their demands, while keeping mum themselves. And they also didn't foresee the commitment and foresight and smarts of Friends of the Parks, which put their money where their mouth was. And which got themselves a fabulous lawyer.
Once in a great while we rise up--especially when it comes to outsiders. And while we've had no problem being pushed around through the years, it's never been as outlandish and obvious as this deal was: a modicum of dough, a blobby white building, 59 Norman Rockwells and a Star Wars memorabilia collection--in exchange for anything he wants, including verboten land. Because of the chance that maybe people will come here and spend money on food and hotels. And Airbnbs.
We do have our limits.
Some people say Friends of the Parks--which has momentarily suspended its lawsuit--likes the idea of getting rid of Lakeside Center in exchange for a new "smaller" building on that footprint--and plenty of new park space. That they'll drop the lawsuit if that happens. And some say maybe they should go along with the original site--if Lakeside Center gets leveled for a new park of some sort.
I have no idea what Friends of the Parks is thinking. But I'm certain they don't want to keep their resources flowing toward legal bills any more than necessary. So maybe they'll negotiate this whole problem away.
However, I am pretty sure of one thing. If Tiny decides to raise the enormous bundle of cash he needs to tear down McCormick Place East, and relocate the convention space somewhere else, another group is going to take the place of Friends of the Parks: Preservation Chicago. Preserving mid-century architecture is all the rage today--as well it should be--and the idea of getting rid of an iconic structure created by renowned architects in exchange for housing Star Wars memorabilia to appease George Lucas won't sit well.
Repurposing the building from the inside, ok! Taking the Michael Reese land off our hands, ok! Buying land in Lawndale or Bronzeville or any underused land in an underused area of the city, ok! Do that George and you are welcome.
But George and Tiny, take it from me, we do have our limits. And we've pretty much reached them.
POSTSCRIPT: A few hours after this post went up, Friends of Downtown stated that they oppose tearing down Lakeside Center and building the museum in its footprint.
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