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A New Hope for Lucas Museum's Lakefront Legal Challenge?

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A motion to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to block the construction of the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on Chicago's lakefront was denied today by US District Court Judge John Darrah. The suit was filed by non-profit advocacy group Friends of the Parks who argued that site, formerly part of Lake Michigan, belongs to the public land trust and therefore cannot be legally transferred or leased to the non-profit group that plans to operate the museum. Friends of the Parks first mounted their legal challenge back in November of 2014 when the $400 million privately-financed museum was first proposed for the asphalt parking lot situated between Soldier Field and McCormick Place East.

While the suit's non-dismissal doesn't signal the demise of the planned cultural institution, it certainly represents a major obstacle for a project that was otherwise green-lit. Championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after a proposed site in San Francisco's Presidio parkland backfired, George Lucas' museum gained the support of the Chicago Park District and passed through the city's Plan Commission and the Chicago City Council last year. The final shoe to drop in the approval process was the Chicago Bears organization who ultimately reached a deal to establish a leased "events prairie" that would go towards replacing much of the tailgating real estate that would be lost to the museum and its accompanying green space.

Public opinion regarding the location and controversial MAD Architects' design of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has been fairly split among Chicagoans. While plenty of residents view the new world-class cultural institution as the perfect must-visit addition to the city's popular Museum Campus, others support a more strict adherence to Chicago's Lakefront Protection Ordinance and interpret Daniel Burnham's proclamation that the city's lakefront shall remain "forever open, clear, and free" as nothing short of gospel. Construction on the 300,000-square-foot museum and park cannot proceed until the lawsuit is settled. The next update on the on-going legal saga should arrive after a status hearing scheduled for February 18th.

·Lucas Museum of Narrative Art [website]
·Ruling keeps Lucas Museum in limbo [Crain's]
·Previous Lucas Museum coverage [Curbed Chicago]