Economic Development

City Officials Have Star (Wars) in Their Eyes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – City officials and the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber hope to lure filmmaker George Lucas’ proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to downtown.

City Council passed a resolution Wednesday expressing the “enthusiastic support” of council members and the Regional Chamber for Lucas – creator of the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” movie franchises and founder of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic – to build the proposed museum “in the heart of a revitalized downtown Youngstown.”

The city would donate land for the project, according to Michael McGiffin, director of downtown events and citywide special projects.

Plans by Lucas, who sold Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Co. in 2012, to site the museum on the lakefront in Chicago have met with local resistance. He earlier had proposed the museum for a site in San Francisco.

“We followed the news and watched two major markets drop the ball on this project. I think we can make a pretty strong case as to how it can be mutually beneficial to locate the museum in Youngstown,” McGiffin said.

“Locating this treasure of Lucas’ digital, traditional and narrative artworks in Youngstown would have a catapulting effect in helping our ‘Comeback’ City redefine itself and would be in line with George Lucas and is wife Melody’s devotion to philanthropy,” according to the council resolution.

The resolution notes that museum would complement “other incredible and nationally recognized treasures” such as the Butler Institute of American Art, the National Packard Museum in Warren and the DeYor Center for the Performing Arts, which was home to one of the original Warner Brothers theaters, as well as the Arms Family Museum, the Tyler History Center, the McDonough Museum of Art at Youngstown State University, the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor and the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology.

“Youngstown already shares a strong relationship with Lucas’ native Northern California region,” according to the city’s announcement of its proposal, which cites the DeBartolo York family’s ownership of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Mahoning Valley also has a direct tie to the Star Wars films. The late screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who lived in Kinsman, wrote the first draft for the second film in the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back.

First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver brought the idea to the city’s attention earlier this week, Mayor John McNally said. “Both Chicago and San Francisco want this museum but both cities are bogged down with in-fighting,” he said.

Oliver said he was informed about the project by Eric Planey, a former Regional Chamber official now living in New York. Currently the city is suggesting the former Wean property, he said.

“We have a couple of specific locations that we are thinking of but ultimately we would welcome Mr. and Mrs. Lucas to help make that decision,” McGiffin said.

McNally plans to issue a formal invitation to the Lucases to visit the city.

In response, the Lucas Museum press office said it had “no official comment” on the city’s proposal.

Pictured: Rendering of museum Lucas hopes to build.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.