…and there’s more development around McCormick Place! Read on…

Curbed Chicago reported on the recent votes by the Chicago Plan Commission approving the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, held October 16.

There are two points of controversy: the actual design (likened to Jabba the Hutt) and the actual parkland, which is as hallowed as New York’s Central Park, and subject to the Lakefront Protection Ordinance passed in the 1970s, which prohibits any private development. The Lucas Museum construction and operation will be completely privately funded.

The Commission approved three separate motions:

  • A 99 year ground lease from Park District with two options for renewal. The $10 [yes, TEN DOLLARS] 99-year lease is similar to those for the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum, although the Museum will not use any public subsidies, yet will still abide by public access rules, including free admission to school groups and 52 days of free admission to the general public each year.
  • Amendment to Planned Development 778. Mostly zoning issues regarding the construction and height of the building. The floor-to-area ratio for the site is 3.0, meaning that a three-storey building could be constructed on the entire lot (or a six-storey on half of the lot). Since the lot is large and the building as designed does not occupy the entire lot, this is not a concern.
  • Lakefront Protection Ordinance Application approval. This is a complicated process which guards that public access to the Lakefront is not compromised, as well as guarantees the quality of shoreline and water. Since there will be ample parkland landscaping added (to the south of the building), as well as public access to the building and observation deck, this was approved.

On October 28, the Chicago City Council approved, without debate, the revised plans for the museum. In an agreement with the Chicago Bears football team, a new, $40 million, 1,863-space public parking garage will be built on the west side of Lake Shore Drive, over the Metra railroad tracks and busway. There will also be an event prairie which can be used for tailgating, increasing the number of spaces by 200. During construction, Da Bears will be allocated parking nearby from other parking lots, supplemented by shuttle buses. The parking garage will also supplement that of McCormick Place and the nascent entertainment district (more below). Museum patrons will have their own parking located beneath the museum, so game day events are not a concern.

Friends of the Parks, a Chicago nonprofit organization which aims to protect public parks, has filed a lawsuit against the Museum’s construction, stating that it violates the Lakefront Protection Ordinance and the guarantee of continuous public open space along the lakefront.

The court hearing is scheduled for November 10th.


Just what will the Museum feature?

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will challenge the way people think about museums. The first museum of its kind, its unique collection features popular art from illustration to comics, an insider’s perspective on the cinematic creative process, and the boundless potential of the digital medium.

lucas museum
Looking west. The square building on the left is the North Hall of McCormick Center, site of C2E2.
Lucas museum interior plan
A sneak peek inside the museum. In the middle are three state-of-the-art theaters. The beehive in the middle contains galleries, and access to the observation halo. Another gallery is located in the upper left corner.
Yes, locals are filing a lawsuit to protect a parking lot.
Before and after.
lucas museum plaza
The entry plaza.
lucas museum map
The Museum Campus: 1. The Field Museum  2. Shedd Aquarium   3. Adler Planetarium  4. Northerly Island (former site of Meigs Field and MS Flight Simulator)  5. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Click here for examples from the Comic Art collection, with text by Andrew Farago.

Here’s an iconic example from the collection:

Check out that lettering! Just try and find the blue penciling which isn’t covered by ink!

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of other construction in the neighborhood!

marriott arena mccormick
View to the north, from McCormick’s West Hall.

North of the West Hall of McCormick Place and Cermak Road, two blocks are under construction. On the west, between Michigan and Prairie, will be a new arena/event center, home of DePaul University basketball, and also for events which don’t require a huge convention center hall, but which could utilize a smaller space plus the meeting rooms of a nearby hotel. On the east, between Prairie and Calumet, a 1,206-room Marriott Marquis Hotel and a data center will be constructed, cater-corner from the Hyatt, which has 1,258 rooms.

WOW! Marriott already has the specifications online! No floor plans yet for the July 2017 opening, but they do list the spaces…

  • A junior ballroom of 25,000 sq.ft. and theater seating of 2,145
  • 39 meeting rooms on three floors, the largest which seats 349
  • 4 board rooms
  • A grand ballroom of 25,000 sq.ft, with theater seating of 2,145

Hmmm… since this hotel will connect to the West Building, which also connects to the Hyatt Hotel’s meeting rooms… one could host a decent science fiction convention like Dragon*Con in this space. (The Hyatt’s ballroom seats 1,560.)

On the other side of Cermak, directly west of the West Hall, and cater-corner from the arena, is another hotel/data center/retail project, which will have 450 rooms. The area immediately to the west of McCormick, on Michigan Avenue, is Auto Row, a landmarked district of former automobile dealerships. While most dealers have left the area, the buildings are protected, and any alterations require city approval. Since the streetscape will be preserved, and new buildings must blend in, expect this stretch of Michigan Avenue to feature restaurants and bars catering to the convention center and arena crowds.

Further west, near the new Cermak-McCormick Place station on the Green Line, a hotel and apartment complex will be sited on the northeast corner of Wabash and Cermak. This hotel will be smaller, with seven storeys and 144 rooms.

Studies funded by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place, show that the center needs 8,000 hotel rooms to remain competitive with Las Vegas (which plans an expansion of their convention center which will make LV the king of the megacenters). Chicago’s hotel occupancy rates can be analyzed here.

Meanwhile, due to a state budget impasse, MPEA’s credit rating was downgraded, as tax revenues were collected but not appropriated, causing the Authority to miss a bond payment. Current debt held by MPEA stands at nearly $3.5 Billion.



  1. Love the idea, hate the placement. Hey, there’s a million places other than the peoples parkland to put Luca’s museum. The stipulation is that he wants waterfront land for it. So why not tear up that ugly eyesore of the McCormick Place east, and put it there? Not like they use this old beast for much anyway.

  2. Well, some have suggested tearing down the Lakeside Center of McCormick, but then, you run into the same regulation regarding the lakefront. McCormick, the side east of Lakeshore Drive, is grandfathered in.

    If you can’t place it on top of a parking lot…
    (yes, Friends of the Parks is fighting to protect a parking lot, in the future hope that it will be converted to parkland…which ain’t gonna happen unless you move that parking elsewhere),
    …you can’t place it on top of a convention hall.

    Myself, I think it’s a good fit, especially with the other museums nearby.
    Also, there will be a bridge to Northerly Island.
    But that SOM wetlands idea is pretty cool as well.

    Lakeside is used.
    It has the Arie Crown Theater, which seats 4,429. http://www.ariecrown.com/
    C2E2 used it during their first show.
    Hall D has lots of natural light, there’s access to the shoreline if you need to escape, and the building offers a wrap-around patio which can be used for outdoor displays.

    Of the upcoming calendar, there are:
    2/5 events in November
    1/4 in December
    0/2 in January
    1/6 in February
    2/5 in March (including one event at the same time as C2E2)

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