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Chicago's George Lucas Museum Dreams Dashed; Potential Path to Oakland Opens

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Forced out again, Lucas may yet return home to the Bay Area

We all thought we knew how the story went: George Lucas wanted to build a museum about film, science fiction and narrative art, and selected his quasi-hometown of San Francisco for it.

Then the city (or more precisely, the Presidio Trust) jettisoned his plans, citing a combination of aesthetic concerns and hurt feelings on Lucas‘ part, leaving the museum bobbing in the abyss like a seven-story escape pod. Chicago was supposed to reap the benefits of our disinterest in the proposal.

But now a sequel of sorts has taken shape as Curbed Chicago and numerous other outlets report that local opposition has almost certainly now squashed the Windy City’s chances of netting the development.

Indeed, this new script borrows heavily from the last one: The 170-acre, $400 million lakefront proposal was a target of interest groups and the subject of lawsuits, and local pundits dubbed it a "needlessly massive intruder," a line that, if not taken straight from a past San Francisco development fight, will surely find its way into a future one.

Murmurings that the museum team may be looking for (another) new home started back in February, but the project had approval from Chicago’s planning commission and was asking permission to break ground.

The only thing holding it up was a lawsuit from an interest group called Friends of the Parks (seriously, are we sure this isn’t happening in San Francisco?), which a judge refused to toss out and which hinders construction on the lake until resolved.

For months, Chicago has been suggesting various other sites that could serve for the museum, and it now appears that Lucas and company have agreed: Another location is better. In fact, he wants out of the city entirely.

Now the big white building (designed by MAD Architects of Beijing) is floating free again. Where will it finally land? Only Lucas may know. But Oakland has been not-so casually waving in his direction for months.

Erica Terry Derryck, a spokesperson for Mayor Libby Schaaf who previously advertised the city’s potential interest in the project, told us today that the mayor’s office doesn’t want to make a lot of waves until they know for sure that the Chicago deal is dead, but said that it would be "very thrilling" to host the museum and that February’s flirtations still stand.

It would perhaps be the ideal outcome for Bay Area ilk, who would get Lucas’ collection of cinematic art in their own backyard after all.

But nobody will know for sure what happens until the final reel.