Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Build It and They Will Run

Well, at least one person is certain Chicago will get the 2016 Olympics. Here’s an ample excerpt (really, I left some for you to read at the other end of the link).
The Olympic bidding process is a variant of a war of attrition. Every day for the next year and a half, each of the competing cities must do a little something (an Olympic themed festival), or a lot of something (clearing land for a new sports facility) to prove its worthiness to the IOC. Stop paying that price every day, and you lose. For that reason, the city that wants the prize the most usually wins. Beijing did. London did. And, this time, Chicago does.

The other competitors entered this contest for all the usual reasons: to boost tourism, to extract resources from their central governments for public works, and to create jobs, (albeit temporary ones). Worthy goals all, but a mere grain of sand on Chicago's ten mile long lakefront beach when compared to what's at stake for Da Mayor.

The Olympics provide Daley an opportunity to do something his famous father couldn't. They'll enable Daley to unite his city. I'm not talking about political unification. I'm talking about economic unification. I'm talking about glass and steel
unification. This is the city of big shoulders not the city of brotherly love. Daley sees the Olympics as a way to complete a high rent, low crime, high socio economic status neighborhood that stretches from Hyde Park at the South to Rogers Park at the North. He's not thinking about a few volleyball courts and a running track, He's thinking about the Olympics as a means to build housing, transportation, and infrastructure

For that reason, Daley will do what needs to be done. I'm not saying that he'll violate international law or that (egad) he won't live up to the Olympic ideals. To the contrary, Daley will play by the rules of the game, but don't think for a moment that the crackdown on bribes and gifts to IOC members following the Salt Lake City scandal will prevent him from greasing the a few palms if necessary.

Daley needs these Olympics. A vision of a unified Chicago has driven his policies from day one. Eighteen years ago when Daley took office, Chicago's high rent district ended at the Southern tip of the loop. Since that time, Daley has pushed through a refurbished lakefront museum campus, a new ballpark for his Chicago White Sox, a futuristic Soldier Field, and a massively expanded McCormick Place Convention Center. He has also built up the neighborhood around the University of Illinois-Chicago. Guess what? All of these projects lie to the South of the Loop.

Not only did Daley build. He unbuilt. He dismantled the Robert Taylor Homes, a series of low income, skyscraping public housing projects that dotted the South coast. Then, in the dark of night on March 30, 2003, he sent bulldozers to destroy Meigs' Field, thus creating more park space and an even more attractive lakefront. In this inverted Field of Dreams, if you unbuild it, they (the developers) will come. And they have. South of the Loop now consists of twenty-story glass building after twenty-story glass building, many sporting a view that looks North to shiny new Millennium Park and five miles South to the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

Daley intends to use the 2016 Olympics to fill in those five miles.

Don't believe me? Look at the plans. The Olympic Village? That'll sit South of McCormick Place to the North of the new Sox ballpark and the Illinois Institute of Technology. The Olympic Stadium? That'll be in Washington Park, which sits adjacent to the University of Chicago. If all goes according to plan, the remaining undeveloped blocks, many of which contain glorious, under priced brownstones, should get swooped up in a frenzy of gentrification, provided Daley can also encourage some businesses to relocate as well. And, believe me, he will.
Like I’ve said before, a Chicago Olympic bid, not to mention the Olympics themselves, is going to affect the whole state at some level. Maybe we should all get ready.

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