CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday allowed a lawsuit to proceed that seeks to stop “Star Wars” creator George Lucas from building a $400 million museum along Chicago’s lakefront, leaving open the possibility that the museum as currently envisioned may not get built.
Friends of the Parks, a nonprofit group that filed the lawsuit, argues that construction of the 300,000-square-foot Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would violate public-trust laws that restrict development along Lake Michigan and that guarantee open public access.
In a written opinion released after a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Judge John Darrah explained that he was rejecting the city’s request to toss the lawsuit because he thinks Friends of the Parks makes plausible arguments that turning over the land “is not for the benefit of the public but will impair public interest in the land … and promote private … commercial interests.”
Construction at the site south of Soldier Field was expected to start this spring, though Thursday’s ruling makes that unlikely.
The city council backed the project in October, offering the museum a 99-year lease on the lakefront property for $10.
Lucas chose Chicago over San Francisco for the museum after saying the California city was “doodling around,” while Chicago officials aggressively pursued the project.
An attorney for the city of Chicago, Brian Sieve, expressed concern at Thursday’s hearing about proceedings dragging as the case now heads toward a trial, telling Darrah about the process: “It is urgent from our perspective.”
A Friends of the Parks attorney, Thomas Geoghegan, said he hoped the ruling would encourage Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reconsider his support for existing plan.
“We hope that we can sit down and have a dialogue about where to put the Lucas Museum — not on the most glorious lake front, not on property that is held in the public trust,” he said.
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