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Metropolitan Planning Council celebrates Olympics win, recommends priorities to achieve 'lasting legacy'

(Chicago) The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and implements sensible development policies and practices in metropolitan Chicago, congratulates the City of Chicago and Chicago 2016 Committee for their effort to earn the nod as the U.S. Olympic Committee’s choice to host the 2016 Summer Games.

During the next two-and-a-half years, Chicago will compete against an elite class of global metropolises, including Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, to win over the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2009. Efforts by the city and Chicago 2016 must be focused not only on the short-term goal of winning the IOC bid, but also on a critical long-term goal: maintaining and building upon Chicago ’s world-class status to keep our region competitive in an increasingly global economy. As Olympics plans continue to evolve, MPC recommends prioritizing initiatives that improve quality of life, equity of opportunity, and economic redevelopment in metropolitan Chicago – today, in 2016, and for generations to come.

“The Metropolitan Planning Council – which made its public debut 73 years ago at the 1934 Century of Progress World’s Fair – urges Chicago leaders to internalize best practices from recent host cities, and learn from their successes and their mistakes to truly leave a 'lasting legacy' for metropolitan Chicago,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett.

MPC respectfully sets forth this initial list of recommended priorities:

Priority #1: Improve transportation options in metropolitan Chicago.
During the Games, some 2 million visitors – in addition to the region’s 8 million residents – must be able to move about swiftly and efficiently using public transportation, bicycling, and walking. Driving will be near-impossible and discouraged. Improvements to public transit, bike lanes, streets and sidewalks will have lasting benefits for the city and region and should be based on plans already developed by city and regional planning agencies, maximizing the use of the region’s existing infrastructure and expanding our transit network where necessary. To jumpstart these plans, MPC urges the Illinois General Assembly to take action this session and pass a state capital plan with selection criteria.

Priority #2: Coordinate pre-Games development with the revitalization of Chicago’s mid-South and West Side communities currently underway.
Many of the proposed Olympics venues , including the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Aquatics Center, are located in South and West Side neighborhoods undergoing rapid revitalization. These communities will bear much of the responsibility for representing Chicago to the world. Coordinating revitalization initiatives in these neighborhoods is a must. For instance, the Olympic plans should build on the momentum generated by the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation and its new mixed-income communities (many of which are located near proposed Olympics venues). Through careful planning that addresses the concerns and incorporates the input and resources of local residents, as well as builds on current redevelopment efforts, the city and Chicago 2016 have a rare opportunity to use the Games to bring new jobs, shopping opportunities, mixed-income homes, and improved public facilities to some of the city’s most historic – and currently disinvested – neighborhoods.

Priority #3: Maximize benefits for Chicago ’s low and moderate income residents.
Without a thriving middle-class and absent adequate resources to support low-income residents, Chicago cannot maintain its status as an inclusive global city that offers opportunities to all its citizens. The Olympics can help expand the earning power of Chicago’s working poor, by focusing on redevelopment that benefits underserved communities. Likewise, the Olympics can help the city attract and retain young professionals and middle-class families. For instance, as plans to develop the 6,000-unit Olympic Village proceed, city leaders and employers located nearby should plan now to ensure that a significant percentage of those units are converted immediately after the Games into homes that are affordable – and that remain affordable in the long term – to low and moderate income working families.

Priority #4: Grow Chicago ’s reputation as a green city.
With 29 miles of shoreline parks, a growing number of LEED-certified buildings (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and green roofs galore – not to mention Lake Michigan and the Chicago River – Chicago’s green reputation came alive for the U.S. Olympics Committee. The Olympics can catalyze the next step in Chicago’s “sustainable revolution” through the development of “green” neighborhoods, featuring pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streets; compact, mixed-use development; accessible open space and public transportation; and a mix of housing types. Chicago’s Olympics dreams can jumpstart the development of energy-saving model neighborhoods, known as LEED-ND (LEED for Neighborhood Design) communities, which represent the next logical step in the green building movement.

Already, MPC is advancing policies and plans that will strengthen Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Games. For instance, the Council has been urging Illinois leaders to pass a new state capital plan with selection criteria to fund much-needed improvements for our regional transportation network; and to approve SB 135, known as the LEED-ND Green Neighborhood Award, which will provide economic incentives for the development of sustainably designed, energy-efficient neighborhoods in Illinois. Since 2000, MPC has been working with city leaders and the CHA to ensure success for Chicago’s new mixed-income communities being created by the Plan for Transformation. And through its Community Building Initiative , MPC is helping local communities tap best practices to address difficult planning and development challenges.

“MPC is among a host of civic groups ready and willing to partner with the city and Chicago 2016 on plans that will capture the imagination of the IOC and the world, while contributing to a better region,” said Barrett. “We’re eager to get started.”

For comment from the Metropolitan Planning Council, please contact MPC President MarySue Barrett, at 312-863-6001 or msbarrett@metroplanning.org; MPC Vice President of External Relations Peter Skosey , at 312-863-6004, 312-401-8051, or pskosey@metroplanning.org; or MPC Communications Associate Mandy Burrell , at 312-863-6018, 773-640-1206, or mburrell@metroplanning.org.

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