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Friends Of Parks Boss Open To Lucas Museum Discussion, But Won't Drop Lawsuit

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A doomed plan for George Lucas' "Star Wars" museum on the lakefront may have been revived after the group blocking the idea reportedly voted to end its opposition.

Then again, maybe not.

According to a report by Michael Sneed in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Friends of the Park board has voted to drop its lawsuit, which challenged the original location for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art --a parking lot between McCormick Place and Solider Field.


However, later on Friday morning, Friends of the Parks Board President Lauren Moltz and Executive Director Juanita Irizarry, said in a statement that the lawsuit was still on the table.

"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. 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.

Sources tell CBS 2 that there is a disagreement between the Friends of the Parks board and its executive director. The majority of the board favors a Lucas museum in Chicago and directed Irizarry to reopen talks with the city. However, Irizarry is dragging her feet, the source said.

Following the lawsuit, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered a compromise plan: Replace the aging McCormick Place Lakeside Center with the museum and 12 acres of new park land.

It would have required 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.

Friends of the Parks didn't like that plan, either.

At that point, the museum appeared dead.

Lucas' wife Mellody Hobson last month issued a statement, blasting Friends of the Park.

"From the beginning, this process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group," she said.

"We are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago. If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks and that is no victory for anyone."

Now it appears the group's board voted to proceed, preferring instead to take advantage of an opportunity to improve McCormick Place.

The Sun-Times also reported, Emanuel is offering another sweetener: adding 525 acres of lakefront parks and extend public access on Lake Michigan from Evanston to the Indiana border.

At a public appearance on Friday, Emanuel did not directly address the development, saying, "I am committed to trying to find a way to make sure all of us, people who have different views, can work together and have cultural plans and open space."

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