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No Olympics, but investment opportunities abound

Well, it's official: Chicago will not host the 2016 Olympic Games.

No doubt, the Games would have been a catalyst for investments in Chicago neighborhoods that need it. The city's public transportation system also would have benefited. Temporary and permanent jobs would have been created. New retail shops would have popped up in communities that have had to shop in other neighborhoods or even the suburbs for years.

Here's an idea: Let's do these things, in spite of the IOC's decision today.

Many neighborhoods near potential Olympic venues already have comprehensive community plans in place. Their plans and needs haven't changed. Nor should the enthusiasm of the rest of the city to make improvements to transportation options and retail opportunities that have been needed for decades.

Across the region, more and more people are demanding transit service, even as the system continues to deteriorate. The next federal surface transportation bill is expected in 2010, and that can be a huge opportunity to make fixing our transit system a priority.

Meanwhile, officials from DOT, HUD and EPA, who spoke at our luncheon a couple of weeks ago, are now working together and asking cities for thoughtful, coordinated investment proposals that address the complete picture, i.e. jobs-housing connections, energy efficiency, smart transportation. Chicago should put forth a bold proposal.

Chicago, let's not hang our heads. Instead, let's choose look ahead and make the most of those opportunities to make our beautiful city even better.

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