The site, known as Seawall Lot 330, is across the Embarcadero, which is Spanish for “wharf,” from Piers 30-32, where the NBA’s Golden State Warriors had planned to build a new arena but abandoned the idea in the face of community opposition and regulatory hurdles.
Development on the piers is restricted to 40-feet-high and requires at least two layers of regulatory approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bay Conservation Development Commission. The seawall lot, given it does not sit atop the water, does not have to clear as many hurdles.
The Port of San Francisco owns the seawall lot and development there is capped at 65 feet, which would not hinder Lucas’ plan, a source told The Tribune. The port would lease or sell the land to Lucas, the Chronicle reported.
In addition to offering Lucas the seawall lot, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is open to letting Lucas try to build his art museum on the piers, if he’s willing to risk the time and money, the paper reported.
“It’s a spectacular and amazing site,” a source told The Tribune of the piers. “You could build an iconic, world-class structure there. But it was heavily damaged during the ’89 quake. It’s so fragile.”
The source declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The Warriors concluded it would take about $180 million to repair the piers, another factor steering San Francisco’s mayor inland to the nearby lot.
Chicago, meanwhile, has offered Lucas a parking garage and a parking lot located between Soldier Field and McCormick Place, the city’s convention center. The Chicago Park District would lease Lucas the land for $1 for a 99-year term.
The site is large at 17 acres and close to the Museum Campus, home to The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. If Lucas’ museum was raised and sited on the southern end of the parking lots, it also would offer spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Views on the northern end of the lots are blocked partially by Soldier Field.
“We remain confident that we’re providing the best bid for this world-class institution,” David Spielfogel, a senior adviser to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said Wednesday.
Friends of the Parks, an advocacy group dedicated to preserving open space, opposes the Soldier Field site because it would violate one of the 14 basic policies of the Lakefront Plan of Chicago, which prohibits further private development east of Lake Shore Drive.
Chicago became Lucas’ part-time home after marrying Chicago native and Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson, who lives here.
“We are still actively competing,” local museum task force co-chair Kurt Summers Jr. told the Tribune’s editorial board this week. “That’s become very clear to us.”
After Chicago presented its offer, civic leaders in San Francisco made a public plea to Lucas, taking out a full-page ad in Thursday’s Chronicle that began: “Dear George Lucas, We care about arts education for our young people and believe the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum belongs in San Francisco.”
The letter was endorsed by every living mayor of San Francisco and tech-sector luminaries, such as Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt. Also signing was former Chicagoan and former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.
SF.citi, a technology-sector advocacy group founded by well-known angel investor Ron Conway, paid for the ad.
“The San Francisco Bay Area is already a top destination for visitors from around the world,” Conway said in an e-mail to the Tribune. “It's the global center of innovation. It's George Lucas' home. We are all united behind Mayor Lee's efforts to find a spectacular waterfront site for the museum, where we believe it truly belongs.”
Lucas is expected to announce his decision this summer.
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