Lucas Museum Appears a Done Deal, But Legal Battle Continues


Plans to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art along the Chicago lakefront seem like a done deal. They have the support of both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District, but not everyone is on board.

Friends of the Parks, a Chicago nonprofit that advocates for the protection of public parks and spaces, has renewed its efforts to halt the development.

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After revised design plans of the project were released, the organization filed an updated complaint in federal court last week targeting the ground lease agreement between the museum and park district. The agreement would give the museum of "Star Wars" movie mogul George Lucas a 99-year lease on the lakefront site for just $10.

"The issue continues to be the same and it's the location of the proposed museum. We had filed a complaint and we merely amended our complaint to add the ground lease, which the Chicago Park District proposes to enter into. But we continue to struggle simply against the location of the museum on the lakefront public trust land," said Friends of the Parks new executive director Juanita Irizarry.

Friends of the Parks is also holding true to its original four-count lawsuit that claims the museum and park district are violating the public trust doctrine by planning to build on landfill in the city's Museum Campus along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Is the museum a gift to the city that would add to its cultural heritage and draw more tourists, or just a giveaway of public land?

"We'd be happy for the Lucas Museum to come to Chicago and bring the educational, jobs and economic development benefits that we expect it could bring," explained Irizarry. "We just think those same things could be brought at another location."

Despite several requests to the Lucas Museum, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District, as well as other organizations and individuals who are on the record as being supportive of the museum, none were available to join us Wednesday evening.

A representative from the Lucas Museum issued the following statement to “Chicago Tonight” on Tuesday evening:

"The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is the first museum of its kind and will offer a unique collection of narrative art from illustration to comics, an insider’s perspective on the cinematic creative process, and the boundless potential of digital art forms. It will be an iconic addition to the Museum Campus, reflecting the contours of Lake Michigan’s shoreline and transforming the current site from a barren asphalt parking lot into a usable green space for everyone to enjoy. Indeed, Chicago residents will gain nearly 200,000 square feet of new parkland thanks to this project.

We continue to work in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the city of Chicago on the development process and look forward to the Lucas Museum joining Chicago's world-class artistic community."

"We hear [from] a lot of folks who are really concerned about privatization of public land," said Irizarry. "Folks that may not care so much specifically about parks really perk up when you talk about the taking of land that someone ought to pay for first of all, and that there should be a public process around."

Watch the video to hear our full conversation with Irizarry.

Below, proposed images for the Lucas Museum:

  • A before and after comparison of the current lakefront site vs. the proposed Lucas Museum. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    A before and after comparison of the current lakefront site vs. the proposed Lucas Museum. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • A bird’s eye view of the Lucas Museum and surrounding park setting. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    A bird’s eye view of the Lucas Museum and surrounding park setting. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • Rendering of the Lucas Museum's public plaza. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    Rendering of the Lucas Museum's public plaza. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • An aerial view of the Lucas Museum site plan. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    An aerial view of the Lucas Museum site plan. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • Inside rendering of the Lucas Museum's spiral ramp, three theaters, galleries, classrooms and library. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    Inside rendering of the Lucas Museum's spiral ramp, three theaters, galleries, classrooms and library. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • Rendering of the Lucas Museum's observation deck. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    Rendering of the Lucas Museum's observation deck. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • Rendering of the Lucas Museum's library. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    Rendering of the Lucas Museum's library. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

  • Lucas Museum site with Chicago cityscape from the south east. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

    Lucas Museum site with Chicago cityscape from the south east. (Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

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