November 13, 2014 / 5:25 PM / 5 years ago

Chicago parks group sues over planned George Lucas museum

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago parks protection group sued the city on Thursday over a planned museum by “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas, saying the site is on a lakefront spot that cannot be handed over to a private entity.

The Friends of the Parks group said in its federal lawsuit that the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will include artifacts from the filmmaker’s hit science fiction film series, violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clause.

“Let’s use the Force to do good in Chicago,” Cassandra Frances, president of the Friends of the Park, told reporters in borrowing a “Star Wars” line.

The museum was to be located on the same area on Lake Michigan as Soldier Field, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. The proposed site currently is used for parking lots.

The lawsuit seeks to block the transfer of the land from the city to the museum. By allowing the development, the suit said the nation’s third-largest city will interfere with the right of citizens to “use and enjoy property held in trust by the state of Illinois as a natural resource and pristine physical environment.”

Francis told reporters she objected to “humongous scale” - seven levels and 400,000 square feet - of the project.

“The structure will interfere with keeping the lakefront clear and free,” she said.

Francis said the museum would be better in another, underdeveloped part of the city.

Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said the administration has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. He said the museum would create jobs and will be treated like others on the lakefront museum campus and comply with all laws.

“This museum is a generous gift that will expand the rich cultural and educational opportunities for children and families in every neighborhood, and visitors from around the world,” Collins said.

The museum will feature Lucas’ collection of paintings, illustrations and digital art, including works by Norman Rockwell, John Tenniel and Maxfield Parrish.

Lucas had wanted to build it in San Francisco but the proposal was rejected by a trust that governs its intended site. Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson, is from Chicago.

The museum said it selected the site because of its central location and accessibility to public transportation.

A white, space-mountain-like design for the proposed museum was released last week, and has already caused controversy in a city known for its architecture.

A spokeswoman for the Lucas Museum had no comment.

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