Inside the Bid: Your Future

September 22, 2009 8:52:33 PM PDT
Northerly Island was reclaimed from planes in 2003.The surreal scenes of what is now a nature preserve could be partially replaced by roaring rapids in 2016.

The US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte is a man-made rapids course similar to what is slated for Northerly Island. A course built for the Olympics but converted for commercial use in the years to follow.

Meanwhile...

"That'll be the site of the Olympic Villag. We're certainly right next door," said Terrie Whittaker, New West Realty.

Realtors and developers are making big plans for the near South Side.

Preps for the demolition of Michael Reese Hospital are already under way. Speculators are snatching up property and those doing the selling are certainly incorporating the Olympics into their pitch.

"We don't know that we're going to get it, we can't promise people their values are going to increase if we do but people draw their own conclusions," said Whittaker.

Plans for the Olympic Village call for a total of 21 residential buildings, each up to 12 stories tall. Post-Games the units would become condos and rental apartments, with at least 20 percent designated as affordable housing.

But it is the new lakefront access, anticipation of amenities and the prestige of being in Chicago's next "it" neighborhood that led Jerry Fogelson and his firm to buy up property from Mercy Hospital.

"They can still get a great buy now but prices are going to go way up," said Gerald Fogelson, developer.

From here to Washington, the politicians promise the Games are the golden goose. Expecting it will hatch everything from fast track train service from downtown to O'Hare to new north-south spurs for Metra and high speed rail connecting Chicago to half a dozen states.

Robert Lang was on the Atlanta Games committee. He says the Olympics expedited federal spending on some projects but nowhere near all.

"A pot of money out there? I don't believe there was," said Robert Lang, Atlanta 1996. "We obtained an infusion of some money to make the present systems work."

In one breath, Mayor Daley promises a "transformative" Games. In the next, he vows not to spent local tax dollars. Experts say you can't have it both ways.

"If you've committed to this and are really bent on bringing the Olympics to Chicago you can't think small at this point. You've really got to do something that might really help the city," said Robert Baade, Lake Forest College.


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