Judge rules Lucas Museum lawsuit will go to trial

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A judged denied the City of Chicago's motion to throw out a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks to stop construction of the Lucas Museum on Chicago's Lakefront. (WLS)

A lawsuit aimed at blocking the building of the George Lucas museum on Chicago's lakefront can proceed. A federal judge ruled in favor of the legal action taken by the non-profit group, Friends of the Parks.

Soldier Field's south parking lot is staying put, at least for now. Movie mogul George Lucas was hoping to break ground here on his $400-million museum in the spring, but that is not about to happen until a lawsuit plays out in federal court.

A couple hours after winning a legal victory, the non-profit Friends of the Parks celebrated at its annual luncheon. The group is trying block Lucas from building on public land that the group says violates public trust laws that restrict development along the lakefront. A federal judge refused a City of Chicago request to throw the Friends of the Parks' lawsuit out.

"We think this is an excellent occasion for the mayor of the city to reconsider the location of this project on the lakefront," said Tom Geoghegan, Friends of the Parks attorney.

Friends of the Parks calls Mayor Rahm Emanuel's fast-tracked giveaway of public land a cover-up. In a short period of time, the City Council, plan commission and the Chicago Park District approved the project. The 17 acres of land will be leased to Lucas at the cost of $10 for 99 years.

Besides the privately funded museum, the plan includes close to five acres of parkland and improvements on a site the city says is better than a parking lot.

"Their statement that they are actually adding somehow some park space is a total red herring. They are taking away 17 acres and pretending like they are keeping something by keeping a few acres as park," said Fred Bates, vice chair, Friends of the Parks.

Friends of the Parks is confident a federal judge will eventually rule in the groups favor, derailing the museum for good.

"We do expect to be victorious. In the meantime, we do encourage the mayor and the park district to pursue other alternatives instead of wasting our time pursuing a site that is not appropriate by law," said Juanita Irizarry, executive director, Friends of the Parks.

City lawyers did not comment after Thursday's court proceedings. The park district just released a statement saying it will continue to vigorously defend its decision supporting the plan.

Both sides and the judge are anxious for the lawsuit to proceed quickly. A bench trial date has been set for March 14.

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museumsgeorge lucaslake michiganlawsuitChicago - Loop
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