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George Lucas Chooses Los Angeles for $1 Billion Museum

UPDATED: George Lucas has chosen Los Angeles as the future home of his Museum of Narrative Art, a decision that Mayor Eric Garcetti touted as a turning point for the city and the area around Exposition Park, where the new $1 billion project will make its home.

The museum for Lucas’ extensive collection of art and film memorabilia will be constructed in the park adjacent to USC. The “Star Wars” filmmaker chose the site over a competing location on Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Garcetti’s office trumpeted the arrival of “a new jewel,” saying that the museum will “soon bring unrivaled opportunities to be immersed in stories told on canvas and celluloid.” The museum will be adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Natural History Museum, and a museum of African-American history and art.

“I believed in the vision for the Lucas Museum, and we went after it with everything we have — because I know that L.A. is the ideal place for making sure that it touches the widest possible audience,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful to Mellody and George, and to our educational, governmental, and cultural leaders for their extraordinary support in helping us bring the museum home. Now it’s time to build the vision.”

The cost of the project has been pegged at about $1 billion, with the costs borne almost entirely by Lucas. The gift to the city comes along with Lucas’s extensive art collection and an endowment of at least $400 million. At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Garcetti said the museum amounts to the largest gift in American history from one family to a city.

The mayor said he got the news the museum would come to L.A. from Lucas’s wife, Mellody Hobson. Construction is set to begin this year near the corner of Vermont and Exposition avenues and to be completed in 2020.

The collection includes about 10,000 paintings, illustrations and other items, with works from Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton and many others, along with mementos from many films, including “Star Wars.”

Lucas has been looking for a home for his collection for more than a decade. He faced community opposition in first San Francisco and then Chicago, his wife’s hometown.

Garcetti said that L.A.’s quick acceptance of the proposal, and cooperation between the city, county and state governments, helped secure the project for the city. He said it would create thousands of jobs during construction and more than 1,000 permanent positions.

Chinese architect Ma Yansong designed museums for both the Treasure Island and Exposition Park locations. The L.A. project will cover seven acres and be within walking distance of seven high schools. The site’s immediate connection to a vast audience appealed to Lucas and Hobson, in contrast to the more isolated San Francisco location, which sat in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The L.A. site is also across Exposition Boulevard from Lucas’s alma mater, USC.

Garcetti said he wanted to conclude the announcement by quoting “Star Wars” seer Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try,” the mayor said, adding: “Today, we did it.”

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