The Battle Over The Lucas Museum Will Go To Court

By Chuck Sudo in News on Nov 13, 2014 9:30PM

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Image credit: Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Friends of the Parks filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning to prevent the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from being built on the lakefront between Soldier Field and McCormick Place, a move expected from the moment the Lucas Museum announced it had chosen Chicago as its home in May.

In a legal twist, FOTP isn’t arguing the proposed location for the museum violates the city’s Lakefront Protection Ordinance. Instead, the group’s executive director Cassandra Francis said at a news conference the site violates Public Trust Doctrine, of which the State of Illinois is the sole trustee. The doctrine, FOTP argues in its suit, ensures “property recovered from the waters of Lake Michigan should be set aside and preserved as a natural resource and open space equally available to Illinois citizens for their use and enjoyment and for access to navigation, fishing and commerce on Lake Michigan.”

In short, Francis and FOTP argue that Springfield, not the City or Park District, has the final say on whether the lakefront is a good location for the Lucas Museum. Throughout the news conference, Francis and FOTP’s attorney Thomas Geoghegan argued the design, though panned by many, is not the issue and that allowing the Lucas Museum to be built on the proposed site would open the floodgates for future development on the lakefront. Geogehgan noted additions to Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium were legal because they were authorized by the Illinois Legislature.

“This will lead to shoreline sprawl,” Francis said. “And one of the questions I would have is, where are we gonna put Richard Branson’s museum then?"

When asked why FOTP was fighting to keep a parking lot in place, Francis said that while FOTP would rather see the space used as a green, open space, she did allow they currently serve a purpose as revenues from the lots go back into the park system. Francis said the city’s “memorandum of understanding” with the Lucas Museum of the lakefront site was presented as a “done deal,” the backlash over architect Ma Yansong’s renderings of the museum “galvanized” opposition to the museum and FOTP would work with museum officials and the Emanuel administration to identify other possible sites for the project, including the former Michael Reese Hospital site on 31st Street.

“We will oppose this museum if it is located anywhere on the lakefront,” Francis added.

The Emanuel administration has expressed confidence the Lucas Museum project would withstand a legal challenge. Mayoral spokesman Adam Collins told the Sun-Times, “this museum will be treated like every other museum on the campus and be in full compliance with all applicable laws.”

Read the lawsuit below.

Friends of the Parks lawsuit