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Denying Reports, Lucas Museum Fight to Continue, Parks Group Says

By Kelly Bauer | June 10, 2016 8:29am | Updated on June 10, 2016 3:54pm
 Friends of the Parks will drop its lawsuit, giving the go-ahead for the Lucas Museum, according to reports.
Friends of the Parks will drop its lawsuit, giving the go-ahead for the Lucas Museum, according to reports.
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Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

CHICAGO — Friends of the Parks will not drop its lawsuit blocking the Lucas Museum, its executive director says, denying earlier contrary reports.

Friends of the Parks is using the lawsuit to block the museum from being built along Lake Shore Drive between Soldier Field and McCormick Place. 

Reports Friday morning said the group would drop that lawsuit and that the museum would be built at the site of McCormick Place's Lakeside Center. But the group's executive director Juanita Irizarry denied that on Friday. 

“Contrary to recent reports, our board remains fully united on the preservation of our lakefront and ensuring that the public trust doctrine is not ignored.  We do believe that the Lucas Museum has a place in Chicago for all to enjoy, but not at the expense of one our most precious public resources," according to a statement released attributed to Irizarry and the group's president Lauren Motlz.

"We have always said we were open to discussions. Anything else you hear is rumor and speculation. We are not dropping the lawsuit,” the statement said.

She declined to comment further.

Friends of the Parks has said the museum would "degrade the lakefront" and argued it shouldn't be sold to developers like George Lucas, famous creator of the "Star Wars" series.

Kelly Bauer with the latest on the Lucas Museum saga.

The Sun-Times reported that the group's executive board had voted on a plan that would include dropping the lawsuit to "get things moving" so the museum could be built on the site of Lakeside Center. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was looking for Friends of the Parks' backing of a plan to build the museum at McCormick Place in exchange for city support of "The Last Four Miles" plan, which would add parkland along the lakefront from 71st to 95th streets on the south and from Hollywood to Howard Street on the north.

"All of us, I think, want to create a situation in the city of Chicago as what I refer to as a 'win-win,'" Emanuel told reporters Friday morning. "Those who are committed to open land and open spaces are also people who enjoy museums. Nowhere else in the Midwest do you have that. It's a way to enrich the city economically, educationally and culturally, but also make it part of the overall effort of the city that has a unique open space and commitment to its lakefront."

The mayor continued, "I think our lake is special. Our lakefront is special. Our parks are special. I believe and I'm committed to trying to find a way that all of us in the city, people of different views work together ... in enriching the city."

The battle over the museum's location has dragged on for years, and Lucas and his Chicago-born wife, Mellody Hobson, have been considering spots in San Francisco amid the headaches in Chicago.

"My husband and I have worked in earnest for two years, side-by-side with every relevant city agency, community leader, and policy maker, to give what would be the largest philanthropic gift to an American city in the 21st century," Hobson said in a statement in early May. "From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group."

Friends of the Parks has faced financial issues in recent years, according to Crain's Chicago Business, and earlier this month an independent supporter of the museum gave Friends of the Parks a petition signed by 2,500 people calling on the parks group to drop its lawsuit.

The museum, officially called the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, is expected to feature a mix of Lucas' collection of artwork, movie memorabilia and digital art.

"The goal of the Museum is to house a collection that tells stories from many places and times—some you will recognize, others that will become new favorite tales," according to the museum's website.

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