A decision this week by a federal judge could green-light plans for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the futuristic-looking proposal from film mogul George Lucas currently facing a lawsuit over its proposed lakefront location.
If built, the museum would take up 17 acres just south of Soldier Field along the lake and would lease that land from the Chicago Park District for 99 years at a cost of $10, with a two-time option to renew. One of the loudest opponents to that location, preservation group Friends of the Parks, has argued the museum project violates the city’s public trust doctrine, which specifies that lakefront land be preserved for public use.
In October 2014, just one month after the Park District signed a preliminary agreement with Lucas, Friends of the Parks filed a lawsuit protesting the deal – in response, the city filed a motion to dismiss the case. It’s that motion which will be ruled on in federal court Thursday.
So far, plans for the 300,000-square-foot museum have passed through various city boards with relative haste, though the Lucas people have made concessions, including cutting back close to 40 percent of the museum’s original footprint and reaching a compromise with the Chicago Bears over shared parking spaces for tailgaters.
Thursday’s court date really boils down to three possible outcomes: Presiding Judge John Darrah could issue a continuance; he could also uphold the motion, virtually removing the museum’s last major roadblock. Finally, he might dismiss the motion entirely, which could result in the city being forced to turn over statements around the museum project’s process – something which they’ve previously fought Friends of the Parks on.
Having those statements will provide the public with a more transparent understanding of how the Lucas Museum came to its proposed location, according to Juanita Irizarry, Friends of the Parks executive director.
“We would like to bring to light more information about the process by which this decision, that is supposedly so good for the public, was actually reached,” Irizarry said. “How is the public’s interest being protected via the process that took place?”
If the judge sides with Friends of the Parks, the case will tentatively go to trial on March 14.
Designed by architect Ma Yansong, the Lucas Museum would stand 151 feet high and incudes plans for a library, gallery and several theaters. Though museum officials have previously stated they’d like to break ground by spring, the current court order prevents any construction until the case gets settled.
Thursday's court hearing takes place at 9:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Federal Court building, 219 S. Dearborn St.
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