Case Against Lucas Museum Moves Forward

Federal judge sides with preservation group at Thursday's hearing

Rendering of the Lucas Museum (Courtesy of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)Rendering of the Lucas Museum (Courtesy of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

The city's move to dismiss a case against the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was thrown out Thursday in federal court, paving the way for a longer fight and potentially delaying the museum's spring construction plans. 

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On Thursday, Federal Judge John Darrah struck down the city's motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the museum. The suit argues that leasing the city-owned lakefront land where the museum would sit violates the city's public trust doctrine, thereby compromising the lakeshore. That lawsuit, from preservation group Friends of the Parks, has been ongoing since October 2014, just one month after the Park District signed a preliminary agreement with Lucas. 

Friends of the Parks lawyer Tom Geoghegan said Thursday that the judge's ruling marks a victory for the preservation group, stressing that the group is merely against the location, not the museum itself. 

"We're pleased that the case is going forward. We think it's an excellent occasion for the mayor and the city to reconsider the location of this project on the lakefront," he said. 

A spokesperson from the Lucas Museum said only, "While we are not a party to the lawsuit, we are reviewing the court’s opinion." 

The city had yet to issue a statement by this story's publication. 

The museum has already quickly passed through various city boards this past year. If built, the privately funded 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.

Designed by architect Ma Yansong, the Lucas Museum would stand 151 feet high and includes 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 is settled. Lucas Museum officials had previously cited a 2019 opening date.

"We are thrilled that the judge has, again, upheld what we've been saying all along, that our case does have merit," Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry said Thursday.

The museum's next court date is Feb. 17. 

Related articles from "Chicago Tonight"

Preservation Group Battles City’s Motion to Dismiss Lucas Museum Suit
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Lucas Museum Passes City Council, Could Break Ground By Spring
Though almost unanimously approved Wednesday, the museum could still be stopped by a pending lawsuit.

The Lucas Museum Strikes Back: An Update from Blair Kamin
Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune walks us through the new designs for the Lucas Museum. Learn about the details of Chinese architect Ma Yansong's revised plan for the potential lakefront museum – and what is missing.

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