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Friends Of The Parks Opposes Emanuel's Compromise Plan For Lucas Museum

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Despite agreeing to temporarily halt their lawsuit challenging the original plan for "Star Wars" creator George Lucas' lakefront museum, Friends of the Parks said Tuesday it would oppose any plan to put the museum along Lake Michigan, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposed compromise at McCormick Place.

When Friends of the Parks issued a statement suspending its lawsuit seeking to stop construction of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art just south of Soldier Field, it did not flatly rule out Emanuel's recent proposal to instead replace the aging McCormick Place Lakeside Center with the museum and 12 acres of new park land.

However, FOTP executive director Juanita Irizarry said that was only because the group wants to keep talks going with City Hall and Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson.

"Unfortunately for more than a year before this time, there was absolutely no conversation, other than with lawyers in court," she said. "We think if we talk together and better understand each other's values, then maybe we can move toward something that truly is a win-win-win for the city, which again we believe is a site that is not on the lakefront."


Friends of the Parks noted its agreement to a 30-day stay of a federal lawsuit against the original Lucas Museum plan allows them to move forward in court if no agreement is reached and the city attempts to go forward with a lakefront site. Irizarry said, if the Emanuel administration goes forward with a McCormick Place site, Friends of the Parks could amend its existing lawsuit or file a new one on the same arguments that a lakefront site violates public trust and lakefront protection statutes.

The group said it is willing to work with the city, the Park District, the museum, and the community "to find an alternative site that isn't on the lakefront or on a site that shrinks the city's public open space."

Specifically, the Friends of the Parks want the city to investigate other possible sites off the lakefront – including the vacant Michael Reese Hospital property, a location west of Lake Shore Drive across from the original proposed Lucas Museum site, or a 28-acre truck marshalling yard just east of the Reese site.

Irizarry said the Michael Reese Hospital site would provide just as many economic benefits without violating existing lakefront protections.

Emanuel has said he does not want to see Chicago to lose the Lucas Museum to Los Angeles or San Francisco, should George Lucas decide to pull out over the legal challenge to his preferred site.

The mayor's compromise plan would require state lawmakers and the governor to authorize a series of tax hikes, as well as $1.2 billion in new borrowing for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which runs McCormick Place.

On Monday, Emanuel said it's important the state help keep the museum in Chicago, along with the jobs and educational and cultural benefits it would bring.

Tuesday afternoon, the mayor's office released a statement saying, "We're disappointed and baffled at Friends of the Parks' comments, which are contradictory to the decision they made less than 24 hours ago to stay the lawsuit. Friends of the Parks has taken inconsistent and incoherent positions, making it impossible to work with them."

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