Fifteen years ago, (in a galaxy far, far away) George Lucas received approval for master plan expansions to his Skywalker Ranch [link to original article] property in Marin County, Calif. Today, Lucas aims to complete the re-design of the large property. He has met some resistance, however, from local environmental conservation leagues.
The master plan calls for a new 262,728-sq.-ft. mission-style ranch building, featuring two 85-ft. towers. Estimates place construction costs between $80-million and $100-million. The structure would host a digital film-production studio, administration offices, a restaurant, a general store, a wine-tasting room, screening rooms, costume storage, dressing rooms, 19 guest suites, and parking space.
The new facility is located on the 1,000-acre former Grady Ranch area of Lucas Valley. The original 1996 proposal permits construction of up to 456,000-sq.-ft. on this ranch, and as much as 185,000-sq.-ft. at neighboring Big Rock Ranch. Lucasfilm Ltd. completed construction on the Big Rock Ranch portion of the design in 2002, but has not moved forward on the Grady Ranch phase until now.
The local Marin Conservation League has pointed out that many of the current design elements differ from the plans originally made years ago. League members demand that Lucasfilm Ltd. make a new environmental impact report, reflecting these changes. "They are having some issues [with the construction]," comments League president Nona Dennis. "For instance, locating sufficient water" for the ranch's operations. Without making a definite statement, the Marin Conservation League expressed doubts over the change to office and light industrial use in the primarily housing and agriculture area.
In the past, however, Lucasfilm has championed environmental consciousness in the region. The master plan set aside over 3,000 acres as permanent open space, and Lucas previously granted 800 acres to Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space. It is also estimated that the new production facility would create as many as 340 needed jobs in the area. "This is a very important project, not just for San Rafael, but the entire county of Marin,” said San Rafael Chamber of Commerce chairman Mike Kadel in a statement. “I think the Lucas family is very environmentally conscious and have always been very good about reaching out to their neighbors.”
But will this be enough to appease local environmental conservationists? Would this huge new construction really mean going over to the dark side?