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Lucas Museum Site Used To Be A Garbage Dump

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 12, 2014 8:30PM

Today, tailgating. Tomorrow, "Star Wars" memorabilia. (Photo credit: Mattheux Photo)

Ever since filmmaker George Lucas chose Chicago as the home for his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the Emanuel administration has stressed no public money would be used in its construction. (This seems like a solid tradeoff, since the city is already offering the future site of the museum for a cool lease of $1 per year.)

Friends of the Parks CEO and president Cassandra Francis said previously she believes the location’s current status as a parking lot serves as “engineered barriers for the containment of contaminated soil underneath” left behind from the Soldier Field renovation project a decade prior.

Apparently, the trash lies even deeper than that.

The site also had a previous life as a garbage dump containing refuses and possibly harmful materials dating back to The Great Chicago Fire. If so, that means Lucas and his museum’s board of directors will have to come up with a plan to clean the site and pay for it out of pocket. With noted architect Jeanne Gang (an advocate of sustainability) on board to design the museum’s landscaping and a pedestrian bridge connecting the museum to the Northerly Island nature preserve she’s also designing, the tab could add up in rapid fashion.

No one involved on the city’s side can say they didn’t see this coming. A test of the soil by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency a decade ago, during the Soldier Field renovations, found cancer-causing materials in the soil. The thought of a thick layer of asphalt being the only thing separating Bears tailgaters from cancer is frightening, if not criminal. How much could the cleanup cost? According to environmental consultant Tony Dappas, who spoke with the Better Government Association, “it could be a $50,000 problem, or it could be a $2 million problem.”

This being Chicago you may want to bet on the larger number. A mayoral spokesman reiterated Emanuel’s position that no public money will be used for the project, but one has to wonder if even someone with enormous amounts of “fuck you money” like George Lucas will eventually ask the mayor for a little help, since the contaminated soil wasn’t Lucas’ fault.