Much ado about the Olympics - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Much ado about the Olympics

The year 2016 … where will you be, what will you be doing? If city leaders are successful, Chicagoans will be enjoying the festivities surrounding the XXXI Olympiad. But what if Chicago is not chosen to host the Olympics in 2016? Can the region still be a winner?

To assemble the bid to host the Games, the City of Chicago and Chicago 2016 Committee had to outline a comprehensive plan to develop venues for the competitions, transportation to get spectators, athletes, and all the rest of us where we need to be, and living accommodations for the athletes and tourists – some might say a lot of trouble for just a few weeks in the middle of the summer. Yet, the city and Chicago 2016 need an even grander plan to create a lasting legacy of the Games. We need to know how to make the most of new development to spark and sustain economic prosperity throughout the city and region. We need to fast-track transportation infrastructure investments to improve our entire regional transit system. We have to plan for the addition of 5,000 new homes created in the Olympic Village without undermining the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) mixed-income communities, most of which will be completed at about the same time, some in the same communities.

There is much more at stake in the CHA’s Plan for Transformation than just bricks and mortar. Nearly half of the Plan’s 25,000 new homes have been completed, but the new mixedincome communities are also going to need improved transit, retail, jobs and community centers to be successful. The Metropolitan Planning Council has been working with the CHA since it embarked on the Plan for Transformation to ensure these essential needs are addressed. We are also urging the city and Chicago 2016 to use MPC’s “Rules of the Games” to guide planning for the Olympics, and are enthusiastic about bringing our resources and expertise to this historic community and regional challenge.

Without a doubt, this is a sports town. But Chicago has a lot more on the line with its Olympic bid than just putting on a preeminent athletic competition. If we start working on our legacy plan now — well before the fall of 2009 when we know if we are chosen — when the summer of 2016 is over, we will have something to show for our efforts. We will already be well on our way to making Chicago a perfect 10.

MarySue Barrett

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