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George Lucas museum Chicago’s next big attraction?

Published: Friday, May 30, 2014 11:37 p.m. CST

CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel is using everything but Jedi mind tricks to persuade “Star Wars” creator George Lucas to put his planned museum of art and movie memorabilia in Chicago.

Lucas has been talking to San Francisco about a location. At first blush, the West Coast bid seems obvious. It’s Lucas’ hometown. It’s a premier center of technology and innovation, and it’s closer to the nation’s movie-making heartland. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on Thursday sent Lucas a letter offering the museum a spot on the city’s scenic waterfront.

Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, is known for going after big amenities that can burnish Chicago’s global reputation (he’s currently pushing for President Barack Obama’s presidential library), and he sees himself as the city’s salesman-in-chief.

But what can Chicago offer in the war for the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum? Here are five things to know about Chicago’s bid:

Hey, Chewie. Meet da Bears

The city is offering up a slice of real estate along the Lake Michigan shorefront and near other big attractions such as the Shedd Aquarium. The site is currently a parking lot south of Soldier Field, meaning fans dressed up as Chewbacca and Darth Vader might have to cross paths with rowdy Bears tailgaters.

Is Emanuel being played?

All good negotiators know you need to play one side against another. And assertions by local news outlets that Chicago is or was a front-runner may have helped wrest a better deal out of San Francisco, which rejected Lucas’ first choice of a location near the Golden Gate Bridge. Lee has acknowledged his city wasn’t a shoo-in but said he wouldn’t easily give up the fight.

Either way, Emanuel stands to gain, if only from the publicity that comes with contending for big-time attractions and events.

The second city is Lucas’ ‘second home’

Lucas feels an affinity for Chicago, where he has spent a lot of time, since his wife, prominent businesswoman Mellody Hobson, is from the city. Chicago closed down Promontory Point on the lakefront so the couple could host a star-studded party to celebrate after their California wedding. In a statement welcoming Chicago’s bid, Lucas even called it his “second home.”

This may or may not be the city you’re looking for

Emanuel’s Chicago fancies itself a big-league center of high-tech and innovation, and it does have some street cred there, with companies such as Boeing and sensations including Groupon. And while the San Francisco area can boast companies including Apple and Google, Lucas spokesman David Perry has praised Chicago for the attention it lavishes on culture, architecture, innovation and education – some of the lofty themes the museum will seek to promote.

What Chicagoans say

Some of Chicago’s most important civic leaders are behind the push to bring the museum. Emanuel has enlisted a task force with the likes of architect Jeanne Gang and Walter Massey, president of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But not everyone is so keen. Northwestern University English professor Bill Savage, in a column this week for Crain’s Chicago Business, suggested the museum would be a glorified holding tank for movie props better suited to Las Vegas.

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