Olympic Village is coming to Chicago, games or no games

Olympic Rendering

Mayor Daley intends to build an Olympic Village whether the 2016 Summer Olympic Games come to Chicago or not, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune report today. This should come as no surprise. The Olympic Village will leave the city with 5,000 units of market-rate and affordable housing on more than 30 acres of land near McCormick Place. This dovetails with Daley’s downtown dream – in which the Loop sheds its identity as a drab office park and emerges as a so-called “24-hour downtown,” where children frolic in the Millennium Park fountain and people line up to see Broadway shows at renovated theater palaces. Residential development in the city’s center is a crucial part of that vision.

The Olympic Village – and the residential development it will leave behind – arguably has an important part to play in the success of Chicago’s Olympic bid. The centerpiece of the Olympic plan, an 80,000-seat stadium in Washington Park, will rely on the Olympic Village for part of its funding. The city is counting on paying for the stadium with $50 million in rights fees paid by Olympic Village developers, with about another $300 million coming from private donors, according to the Tribune and Sun-Times.

But while it looks likely that the Olympic Village will leave downtown richer, it’s not clear what legacy the stadium will leave in the nearby Washington Park and Hyde Park neighborhoods. After the games the stadium will be torn down and a 5,000-seat amphitheater left in its place. Public hearings will give the community a chance to weigh in on this new structure and object if they think it will scar the park’s Frederick Law Olmstead-designed landscape. But Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin points out in a column today that there should also be public hearings on the stadium. He’s right. People who live and work near the stadium site should get to weigh in on how its construction will affect them in the short and long term.


  • Carter 13 years

    hmm, so if we don’t get the Olympics, what then, sell the naming rights?

  • woodlawnchuck 13 years

    It’s going to have a huge effect on the area that could be what helps the South Side return to its prominence. I realize a lot must happen, but the South could turn itself inside out, all the way down to the 90s/Commercial Avenue area and even into that industrial wasteland that borders Indiana.

    From South Shore to Woodlawn, West to Halsted and everywhere in between, the South Side could end up looking a lot like the North Side in terms of development.

    If we do get the Olympics, this will happen. If we don’t and Daley either retires or goes to jail, Chicago could be in real trouble.

  • ElamBend 13 years

    Even if we don’t get the Olympics, this will happen. Land so close to the lake will not stay under-developed forever. The city has already made significant infrastructure improvements and even the small-time developers are starting to poke around there.

    Getting the Olympics will just determine the speed and price.

  • anon 12 years

    What happened to that “forever open and free” declaration about the Chicago lakefront? How does this proposed development jibe with that?

  • woodlawnchuck 12 years

    The housing isn’t right on the Lake, ANON.

  • I see that the local aldermen weren’t informed, let alone consulted, about the housing above the air rights. Toni Preckwinkle suggested NOT building above the air rights to make them less expensive. And lest it be said that she has no taste, word on the street is that she favors Booth Hansen.

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  • Brian 12 years

    This whole oympic thing is a great idea for the city and the olympic village is another great idea because like the mayor said after the games they can simply be turned into affordably houseing problem solved all in all this is a sports city this city is built for athletes and i belieave and trust that this will be a very much good plan for 2016 good luck my town chicago