Olympics: Put Legacy FirstJune 9, 2015
The goal of Boston 2024 is to win the Olympic bid, but our goal at the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance is to create infrastructure and thriving neighborhoods that will strengthen Greater Boston and the Commonwealth for decades to come. In other words, put legacy first.
That’s the message of a report issued today (June 9, 2015) by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, alliance member MAPC and close ally Transportation for Massachusetts. (MAPC is the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for 201 cities and towns in the Greater Boston region.)
With coordination and good planning, the goals of winning the bid and putting legacy first are compatible. And, as New York City has shown, planning for the Olympics can move a city forward even if it loses the bid.
We propose a coordinated planning process that focuses on the legacy impacts of the Games—the long-term, regional benefits that will last beyond 2024. Our prime recommendation is an Olympics Planning Commission to oversee public planning around the Games.
The potential smart growth legacy is real: the Olympic venues provide an opportunity to create new and vibrant neighborhoods, meaningful improvements to existing parks and open spaces, and critically-needed infrastructure, especially related to transportation.
But the report pulls no punches about the possible downside risks, especially the prospect of rising housing prices and displacement. We make nine recommendations to prevent displacement, as well as recommendations to build affordable housing at venue sites after the Games end. We also warn against allowing the venues to sprawl throughout the state, which would force visitors into cars. This can and should be an Olympic Games that are fully accessible by transit, bike and walking.
With the Boston 2024 Committee planning to issue a significantly more detailed bid proposal on June 30, it is time to have a robust public conversation that defines the legacy we want—and how to create a public process that ensures that legacy remains our focus. The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance will be part of that conversation and we hope that you will join us in putting legacy first.