Looking ahead to the Olympic Village

by Joseph Askins on 2/11/08

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Chicago’s claim to the 2016 Summer Olympics is anything but a lock. The city faces stiff competition from six Asian, European and South American countries, and Mayor Daley and the U.S. Olympic Committee still have plenty of hurdles to clear before they can declare victory in their bid.

But if the City of Broad Shoulders does succeed in bringing the Summer Games to the shores of Lake Michigan, one thing is certain: The South Side will see a surge of construction the likes of which have not been seen since the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

At the center of this titanic undertaking will stand the Olympic Village, a $1 billion mixed-use development located on 105 acres of lakefront property immediately south of McCormick Place, in Chicago’s Near South Side.

In an official application (PDF) submitted to the International Olympic Committee on Jan. 15, the USOC described the village as a collection of “new, accessible residential buildings that can host a minimum of 16,000 athletes, coaches and team officials in a peaceful courtyard setting.” A slew of amenities including a promenade of shops, clubs, movie theaters and concert stages will accompany the residences, the application states.

Conceptual art submitted with the application depicts 14 curvilinear mid-rises and high-rises on the western side of Lake Shore Drive. Closer to the lake, a cluster of wave-shaped buildings (inspired, no doubt, by Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate) line the shores of Lake Michigan.

Following the games, developers will convert the facilities into affordable, moderate and market-rate housing and retail spaces, in effect establishing “a central point for improvement of an entire neighborhood on the South Side.”

The city secured development rights and passed zoning requirements for the village, according to the application; construction, however, will be a private endeavor, with one or more real-estate companies moving forward with the village’s development.

Recent news reports have suggested that local heavy-hitters like Mesirow Financial Real Estate, Magellan Development Group, The Fogelson Cos. and The Enterprise Cos., as well as Forest City Enterprises, have all expressed interest in building the Olympic Village. Principals in those companies are staying tight-lipped about their involvement, but at least one, Gerald Fogelson, is moving forward with his own multi-billion-dollar project in the South Side.

Fogelson in February announced plans for his own 23-acre development in the Near South Side. The $4 billion project calls for approximately 4,000 residential units, 3,000 hotel rooms and 300,000 square feet of retail space on the west side of Lake Shore Drive, near Soldier Field.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

CaptainVideo February 11, 2008 at 10:10 PM

Chicago’s run down, inadequate public transportation system will be a major obstacle to getting the Olympics. The visitors from all over the world will need to rely on public transporation to move around the city. Even though doomsday has been averted, the capital funds to really upgrade the system are not there. Some of the major competing cities have much better public transportation systems. For example, Madrid has a high-speed rail line from the airport to the center of the city.

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UptownR February 12, 2008 at 9:17 AM

I hear a lot of people make that argument, but it’s simply unfounded. Did Atlanta have a good public transportation system? What about Los Angeles? Even after a “doomsday” cutback, the CTA is superior to the systems in both of these cities. And looking at past host city choices, I highly doubt that this is a major factor.

Either way, I agree that better CTA funding is needed, and I would hope that things would improve if the IOC choses Chicago.

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Local Realtor February 12, 2008 at 9:20 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe both Atlanta and LA had “supplemental” public-transit conveyances available during the Olympics for the specific purpose of shuttling ticket-holders to the events. We’d probably have to do the same even if our public trans system became “perfect” by 2016. Imagine the typical Red Line during rush hour on a Cubs or Sox day, and multiply that by a few thousand! Not a pretty thought.

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Dmac February 12, 2008 at 9:34 AM

The untold story regards the individuals who’ve been able to acquire some of the lots in those areas at prices that may turn out to be quite lucrative – smart investing, or insider politico deals?

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UptownR February 12, 2008 at 9:39 AM

Yep, there would be shuttles galore. Perhaps the funds would be there to purchase a bunch of new buses for the event, and then we could retire a whole bunch of the old ones after the Olympics was over. It would be nice to get some “L” improvements out of the whole funding mechanism as well. Either way, I suspect the buses and trains would be “extra clean” like they were for the 1996 Democratic Convention.

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Sheridan B. February 12, 2008 at 11:31 AM

Yeah, I remember them cleaning the trains and Medical District el stations (and I mean scraping them clean to make them shine, polishing metal etc) for the convention, however, hardly any delegates too the el; they were all bused by shuttles from their hotels…

Which makes me think that precious few spectators would/will take the el or cta busses. The IC is better poised for some things than most regular cta service.

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Local Realtor February 12, 2008 at 1:21 PM

And maybe they’d even get around to putting pay-as-you-go :-) restrooms in the L stations and self-contained porta-potties at the larger bus stops by then! (You know, like in NY and Europe)

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