Emanuel Worries Presidential Library Could Face Parks Lawsuit Following Lucas Museum Saga

Following news that the George Lucas’ museum may not be built in Chicago due to a lawsuit filed by a group aiming to protect park land in the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s concerned the city could face a similar problem when it comes to building Barack Obama’s presidential library.

The presidential library is expected to be built in one of two parks on Chicago’s South Side -- Jackson Park or Washington Park -- but Emanuel said Wednesday he’s worried once an announcement on the location is made, Friends of the Parks may file another lawsuit.

"In about two months, hopefully, the president of the United States will pick -- because it could have been in New York, Chicago -- and he will either pick Jackson Park or Washington Park for his library," Emanuel said. "Jobs, economic development. Either one of those are Olmsted parks. God willing, there won’t be a lawsuit."

Friends of the Parks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they plan to file such a suit.

On Tuesday, the group announced that it opposes any site on the city’s lakefront, including the recently announced McCormick Place Lakeside Center plan, for the highly-anticipated Lucas Museum. The plan would put the "Star Wars" creator's museum on the site of a parking lot south of Soldier Field.

The move prompted the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to say it is now “seriously pursuing” locations outside of Chicago. 

"You have someone ready to donate almost a billion dollars and we are arguing about whether it will remain a parking lot," Emanuel said Wednesday. 

Mellody Hobson, the wife of George Lucas, claimed efforts to build the museum have been “co-opted and hijacked” by Friends of the Parks.

“When the Friends of the Parks sued the city in order to preserve a parking lot, we were offered a different and feasible solution—the replacement of an underutilized and outdated convention space that would also add more than 12 acres of new parkland,” Hobson said in a statement. “Yet, even with this additional park space, an organization that claims to ‘preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open space' now opposes this as well.”

The Barack Obama Foundation announced the location of the future Barack Obama Presidential Center last May, capping an intense campaign for the library.

“The city of Chicago was instrumental in demonstrating to the President and First Lady the advantages of locating the future Obama Presidential Center in the city, and the University of Chicago brought to life the broad potential and vital energy of the South Side,” foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. 

Emanuel called the project a "unique opportunity" for Chicago and advocated aggressively for the selection. 

It is expected to be completed in 2020 or 2021.

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