The City Strikes Back: Rahm Asks Feds to Blast Lakefront Endor Dream, Save Lucas Museum

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

From a legal perspective, it’s like watching a space battle scene from Star Wars.  In reality, it’s a paperwork fight between the City of Chicago and Friends of the Parks.

The latest salvo comes from the city, which this morning asked a federal appeals court not only to take over the lawsuit filed by Friends of the Parks to keep the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art out of a Soldier Field parking lot, but to also dismiss the lawsuit outright.

In a statement released 30 minutes ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel used language uncharacteristically blunt for a high-profile legal fight:

…they [Friends of the Parks] cannot be trusted, and we will not allow them to hold this project hostage any longer.

This was a reaction to the city offering the McCormick Place Lakeside Center as a sacrificial lamb to be demolished as an alternate location for the museum.  That olive branch was rejected by FotP.

All this comes just 24 hours after a similarly blunt statement from Mellody Hobson, the wife of Hollywood director George Lucas, who offered to pony up $700 million to build the museum just south of Solider Field.

This process has been co-opted and hijacked by a small special interest group… If the museum is forced to leave, it will be because of the Friends of the Parks.

We’re not lawyers, so we’ll defer to Crain’s Chicago Business, which has reviewed the city’s court filing and has this analysis: “it says that Friends of the Parks lacked the standing to sue, that the federal courts generally lack jurisdiction over ‘local land use decisions’ and that the General Assembly specifically authorized the city to make the decision to approve the museum.”

You can read the Mayor’s statement below.

Your turn, Friends of the Parks.


Statement from Mayor Emanuel on Filing a Petition for Writ of Mandamus to Resolve the Friends of the Parks Lawsuit

“The Lucas Museum is an incredible gift that would create enormous economic and cultural opportunities for our residents, which is why cultural, business, labor, community and faith leaders all agree that the museum and the jobs it would create should stay here in Chicago. After having productive conversations with Friends of the Parks, and after the organization agreed to stay its lawsuit, their abrupt and complete change of position has proven that they cannot be trusted, and we will not allow them to hold this project hostage any longer. As Mellody Hobson’s recent comments indicate, Chicago will lose the museum and its tremendous economic benefits if this lawsuit is not resolved.

“Today, we are filing with the federal appellate court a petition for writ of mandamus, which requests that the appellate court direct the district court to dismiss the lawsuit. Friends of the Parks’ claims for federal relief are frivolous, and we can no longer wait for the completion of legal proceedings to correct these legal errors on appeal. Due to the extraordinary circumstances here, if immediate review is denied, there will be no litigation to appeal, as the museum will abandon its efforts to locate in Chicago.”

• The district court denied the City and Chicago Park District’s request to dismiss the Friends of the Parks’ amended lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2016.
• We disagree with this decision, as we believe the plaintiff’s claims are legally baseless and defective on multiple grounds.
• In fact, we do not believe this case should be under the jurisdiction of the federal court.
• In an ordinary situation, we’d appeal the district court’s decision through the traditional appeal process, which takes time.
• But the Museum is being actively pursued by other cities, and it is understandably unwilling to put this project on indefinite hold pending the final conclusion of this litigation.
• Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, but this is an extraordinary case.
• Extraordinary relief is necessary to confine the district court to its lawful jurisdiction, because this litigation has no basis in law.
• The petition for writ of mandamus has been filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
• The petition is appropriate and warranted in this case, which requests that the appellate court limit the district court to its lawful jurisdiction and dismiss the case.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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