CHICAGO (STMW) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the city not to physically alter the proposed site of The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art until further order of the court during the opening legal battle between the city and opponents of the museum.

Friends of the Parks filed suit earlier this month asking a federal judge to stop the proposed construction on the site between McCormick Place and Soldier Field. Filmmaker George Lucas wants to build a state-of-the-art museum there.

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Thomas Geoghegan, a lawyer for the advocacy group, asked U.S. District Judge John Darrah for a preliminary injunction Tuesday. The judge then asked city lawyers if they could guarantee work would not begin before the next court hearing on Feb. 26.

Darrah even likened the situation to Mayor Richard M. Daley’s notorious midnight demolition of Meigs Field.

City lawyer William Aguiar told the judge the Lucas Museum is simply a proposal that must clear Chicago’s plan commission, the City Council and the park district’s board of commissioners before work begins.

Fears of a midnight groundbreaking are “simply not valid,” he said.

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But he stopped short of offering an iron-clad guarantee that nothing would happen before Feb. 26, so the judge entered his order.

The lawsuit filed Nov. 13 by the Friends of the Parks argues the proposed site of the Lucas Museum “consists entirely of land recovered from the navigable waters of Lake Michigan” and that the state of Illinois is the “exclusive trustee” of that landfill.

A city spokesman did not immediately comment on Darrah’s order, but the city’s legal department has said in a statement the lawsuit’s claims “are legally baseless and defective.”

It also said the Lucas Museum “will be in full compliance with all applicable laws and will be treated like every other museum on the campus. This museum is a substantial investment in Chicago’s cultural scene that will create green space, billions of dollars in local economic impact and hundreds of construction and permanent jobs.”

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