Even though the news cycle has given us far bigger and more interesting stories, many Chicagoans are still discussing, some seething over the fact that like a 10-year-old not picked for the game, George Lucas is taking his basketball and going back home. Like that 10-year-old, Lucas apparently figures no one else can play basketball any more because he has taken his ball home.
The reality is exactly the opposite. Lucas and his wife, Melody Hobson have actually done Chicago a favor.
The Lucas-Hobson team helped a lot of Chicagoans learn of the interest, responsibilities and clout of the Friends of the Park. The Lucas-Hobson team exposed that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is politically ailing and not able to strong-arm his will on the public as has been his history. The Lucas-Hobson team also helped reveal the Chicago City Council’s favorite past time is silence, particularly member of the Black so-called caucus. Rather than speaking up about the wealth of vacant suitable land for such a development in the 24th, 28th, 29th, 37th, 34th, 7th or 8th wards; all we got from the people representing those areas was crickets.
Now with the Soldier Field-area lakefront site off the table, the city can make a last ditch offer to Lucas to locate his museum on the former U.S. Steel South Works site. If the father of Star Wars says no, fine. However it is an area the mayor, council and all the folks in the economic development offices should refocus their sights on. There is enough room there to accommodate two Star War museums and anything else Lucas would like there.
Many from the public and city government have opined the Lucas-backed operation would make a huge and favorable impact on Chicago. That is much conjecture as hyperbole. But for a minute let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Put the museum on the nearly 600-acre site, which already has new infrastructure.
If the museum does all its advocates say it can, then it will become the catalyst for reinvigorating a large chunk of the South Side, an area that desperately needs an infusion of business. Drive the area now and you will find land begging to be occupied, new street lights, new roads and curbs, and open land. Mariano’s, Chicago’s most rapidly expanding grocery store had committed to opening in the area, but that was before a development deal with McCaffery Interests and U.S. Steel fell through. https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160229/south-chicago/lakeside-development-dead-after-us-steel-mccaffery-interests-split.
If the city and McCaffery team on a deal for the site, there is an opportunity to develop it as a retail, housing and small business activity center. Such a plan would bring a wealth of development to South Shore. Assemble a package for Lucas with a tight deadline and if he still insists on a Soldier Field-area location, find someone who is serious about economic development and structure a better deal for them. Let Lucas keep his ball and see if he can find a better game in California.