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Chicago’s Olympic Dreams

by Chicago Agent

October 2009 announcement will change Chicagoland
By Brian A. Bernardoni

In early June, I took part in the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, where Mayor Daley pressed hard for civic, business and community leaders to embrace his efforts to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago. Last month, Chicago secured one of four coveted spots on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shortlist. This distinction allows Chicago to market itself internationally in an effort to win the Olympic bid, which will be decided in the fall of 2009.

What makes Mayor Daley’s call so provocative is the inherent leap of faith we all must take, especially in our industry, to support this effort. A review of the Olympic bid book shows what many of you already knew: This is a very compact Olympiad for Chicago. The lakefront will be dominated by new venues and fields, and with that comes great opportunity for the city and the region. The events cluster around our park system, with new venues planned for Jackson and Washington Park on the south side, Douglas Park in the west, Lincoln Park on the north and the entire stretch from 35th street to Grant Park. Intense and highly-condensed activity will take place from 35th to Randolph Street on the north, all on the lakefront.

The excitement that swirled throughout the city when the Democratic National Convention met here in 1996 and the improvements that preceded the event are nothing compared to the efforts the city would put forth for the Olympic Games. The many communities surrounding these venues and parks all will be impacted — presumably for the better. For more details on the city’s plans, you can visit chicago2016.org.

The suggested changes are no small feat, and I am sure advocates of Daniel Burnham’s famed “Plan of Chicago” would be proud. But this undertaking will require extensive coordination in addition to political and financial support from the city government, as well as from civic, transportation, real estate, hospitality and other groups.

With less than a year to go, the clock is ticking for business, civic, religious and community leaders to outline the roles they intend to play. The unions are well ahead of us in this regard, as the Mayor wrapped up labor peace last August. The labor agreement, which was worked out between the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council, does not expire until June of 2017, a year after the Olympics are over.

While everyone has concerns about how the Olympics will affect them, from the mundane — such as traffic concerns in the Near West Side where boxing will take place to the significant problems those in the hospitality and convention world may face in booking rooms and venues in the Olympic year — organizations will need to take stock and plan ahead.

The IOC’s concerns about Chicago lie primarily with city transit, and the Mayor must find solutions to these very real problems. He and the committee will also have to spend time and resources galvanizing the rank and file of Chicago and the region. I don’t feel that this is an insurmountable problem for a mayor like Richard M. Daley, but it remains a considerable challenge in these economically-troubled times. The Mayor has also sworn off, for now, government funding, and has modeled the Games to be supported primarily by private capital. In any other city, this would be a tough sell. However, our Mayor is creative (he did sell the Skyway) and he has a strong will and the ability to convince almost anyone that he can make things happen.

Real estate practitioners across the city, especially on the South Side, will be watching the actions and moves the city makes with vested interest. The question is: Are they just watching or are they planning as well?

The Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) will take steps this summer to answer that question. We will seek out the voices of South Side agents and brokers to see what their thoughts are and where the Association can assist them in planning and other preparations. CAR wants its members to secure the futures of their businesses as the city secures its future, leading up to and following the Olympic Games.

I have to admit I enjoyed the following comment from the Mayor, who, in his remarks about the afore mentioned transportation and logistic dilemma, stated: “Each Sunday we get 60,000 fans out of Soldier Field after a Bears game. We do this all the time.” In his confidence he sees solutions; now all he has to do is get the rest of us on board.

BRIAN A. BERNARDONI IS THE DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS FOR THE CHICAGO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS AND IS ALSO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS DIRECTORS FOR THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS FOR 2007-2009. HE CAN BE REACHED AT BBERNARDONI@CHICAGOREALTOR.COM.

COPYRIGHT 2008 AGENT PUBLISHING LLC

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