Chicago's Olympic Properties Could be Golden for the City

Park parcels in city's hands

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Imagine what will happen to all that land.

    All of those properties near proposed Olympic venues aren't owned by speculators and developer pals of the mayor. Not yet.

    But City Hall will still have a lot of say over what happens in those blocks around Washington Park and Douglas Park, where major Olympic activities would be held.

    That's because City Hall owns a huge chunk of the land itself.

    An analysis by the Chicago Reporter shows that the city owns more than 750 properties in the "immediate vicinity" of the parks.

    The Reporter notes that in the last four years the city has transferred 16 of 24 properties within two blocks of Douglas Park to affordable housing developers. But the only chance for that pattern to continue may be for the Chicago to lose its Olympic bid.

    Why?

    In previous Games, most notably Atlanta, host cities have made a habit of cleaning out the riff-raff near Olympic venues -- just as Chicago did around the United Center as it prepared to host the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

    If Chicago wins the bid, would the city really transfer its property to developers intending to build affordable (low-income) housing? Is that what City Hall will want to showcase? 

    The value of that land will soar significantly the moment the IOC selects Chicago next week. Gentrification will begin immediately.

    And if Chicago loses the bid?

    Those neighborhoods will recede on the priority list of City Hall.

    Neither outcome is optimal, but one may be worse than the other.

    Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.