New plans scale back proposed George Lucas museum in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) — Revised plans for filmmaker George Lucas' proposed museum on Chicago's lakefront include a scaled-back design and more green space.

The museum's new agreement with the Chicago Park District was unveiled in federal court Thursday during a hearing for a lawsuit that a nonprofit group filed in hopes of keeping the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from being built south of Soldier Field.

The revised ground lease agreement prompted U.S. District Judge John Darrah to tell Friends of the Parks that, "in my judgment, you don't have a viable complaint." He gave the group three weeks to fine-tune their complaint against the project.

However, the group's attorney, Sean Morales-Doyle, said the complaint would largely remain unchanged.

"We see our lawsuit from the beginning as not being about the specifics of the document, but whether or not it's OK for the city and park district to sell public land to a private entity like the Lucas museum," Morales-Doyle said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered the land along Lake Michigan for the project to the "Star Wars" creator, who chose to build in Chicago over San Francisco. Original construction estimates were for $300 million. The Chicago Park District signed a preliminary agreement with Lucas in September and Friends of the Parks filed the lawsuit in November.

The group argues that the city has no authority to hand over the land, citing a legal principle known as the public trust doctrine. That doctrine makes the state a trustee over natural resources and requires it to ensure open spaces are preserved and accessible to the public. Two parking lots currently occupy the 17 acres of land.

The judge said that in addition to the new plan, the group must address state legislation passed in April that says the city has the ability to build on similar parkland.

The new agreement reduces the originally proposed museum's 400,000 square feet to "up to" 300,000 square feet. It also would have parkland including a garden, eco-park, dune field and prairie area to host arts and film events.

The proposal needs approval from the park district board, the city's plan commission and the City Council. Construction is slated to begin no sooner than March 1.