CITY HALL — They've got a bad feeling about this.
Friends of the Parks formally announced Thursday the group has filed suit to block the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from its proposed location on the lakefront between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.
In a news conference at City Hall, Cassandra Francis, president of the group, said the museum would "degrade the lakefront" and add to "gridlock" at an "already overburdened site."
Francis said, "Chicago's lakefront is not free for the taking."
Francis decried the museum's "humongous scale" and raised issues about environmental contamination of the landfill under the site, which is said to contain material dating to the Great Chicago Fire.
She doubted that the museum's estimated $300 million cost would pay for structural problems raised by the landfill and the high water table.
"The design is not our issue. We oppose the site," Francis said. "We will oppose this museum in any lakefront location and in any park in the city."
She suggested it go in a neighborhood that could use the economic stimulus, specifically citing the 31st Street truck marshaling yard south of McCormick Place.
"Let's use 'the Force' to do good for Chicago," Francis said.
The group previously has argued that locating the Lucas Museum on the lakefront would violate the 1973 Lakefront Protection Ordinance and lead to more lakefront development. Francis added Thursday that putting the Lucas Museum there would "emasculate" the lakefront ordinance.
Yet attorney Tom Geoghegan, who filed the federal suit on behalf of Friends of the Parks, said it would argue that the landfill area is "held solely by the State of Illinois in trust for the public" and that the city has "no authority" to grant it to George Lucas and his proposed museum, whether or not it turns out to be publicly owned.
Asked about prospects for the suit, Geoghegan said, "We're all equal before the law, just as we all have an equal right to use the lakefront."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel previously has insisted the museum site is on "solid legal ground."
"We believe the plaintiff's claims are legally baseless and defective on multiple grounds, which we intend to raise in a motion to dismiss," said city Law Department spokesman John Holden. "This institution will be in full compliance with all applicable laws and will be treated like every other museum on the campus."
Holden called the museum "a substantial investment in Chicago’s cultural scene that will create green space, billions of dollars in local economic impact and hundreds of construction and permanent jobs."
Museum spokesman Devon Spurgeon declined to comment on the suit, but added, "We remain focused and committed to Chicago."
Francis insisted Friends of the Parks was "thrilled" about Chicago being chosen as home to the museum, but quickly added that any location along the lakefront would be the "wrong site."
She said it would be unfortunate if it came down to an "ultimatum" for the museum to either be built at that site or in another city, saying, "We hope it stays in the city."
Francis wouldn't speculate on whether there would be a political cost to the mayor in his bid for re-election in defending the museum, but said public opposition had been "galvanized" by the perception it was already a "done deal."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: