Last month, the United States Olympic Committee selected Boston, MA as its bid city to host the 2024 Summer Games. Since then, a slew of thought-leaders have debated the social and economic impacts hosting an Olympics in the U.S. And while the debate will continue, we can still take this major opportunity that drives new investment as an opportunity to envision–and possibly shape–the future of our communities.
We know that without the right planning or inclusive design, big public works projects do not often benefit the lowest income members of our communities (Sports, Jobs, & Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?, Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy ) but, we’ve also seen communities reap benefits when they do well (connected with transit and access). If the Olympics come to Boston, the city must do better to craft a plan that considers all of its residents, improving and expanding:
WHO: Who is Part of the Process
When planning efforts are racially and economically inclusive, and they incorporate community voice from stage one, the whole community thrives. For example, our partners through The Integration Initiative in Minneapolis/St. Paul created a “community engagement team“ to identify communities who were not represented in a transit-oriented development process. The team was able to create a planning process that was more inclusive of low-income people and people of color. Thus Community Engagement and Inclusive Tables are two key elements of an Olympic strategy that considers all residents.
WHAT: Expanding Who Benefits from Development, Short and Long Term
Today, fewer people ”work, live and learn in the same metro area“. Transportation does not follow after these regional economic connections are built; these economic places are created when transportation links people, places, and assets. As potential opportunities for low-income residents arise around the Olympics, Boston needs to focus on creating equitable development models - and shift its approach from investing in equitable transit-oriented development to connecting residents to opportunity and work creatively with the “shared mobility” space using collaborative consumption to create new ways to connect people and places.
HOW: Expanding Use of Public, Private and Social Sector Collaboration to Channel Capital
If Boston is selected to host the 2024 Summer Games, we’ll know that Boston’s local governments played a large role to make it happen. To have a truly ambitious bid that will gain the attention of the IOC as we learned from the London games, Social Equity and Inclusion must be an essential inspiration for the design of Olympic sites in Boston. The 100+ cities and towns of the metro region and agencies within the City of Boston must work collaboratively with other sectors and key-stakeholders to ensure their plans are not a financial drain on public sector residents to bid, deliver and sustain an Olympic footprint for future generations. This requires the city government to open its unique resources–data and public trust–and combine with the social and private sector to be nimble, innovative and data-driven. From having patience with collaboration, can come new resources: stakeholders from the private and social sectors can partner with government to blend capital in new ways to drive impact and benefit low income communities. And, the city can engage the emerging Domestic Impact Investing Field to build infrastructure and long term assets that will be co-invested quickly and yield better results for the entire Greater Boston area.
Getting Dramatically Better Results for Low-Income People
If Boston adopts these innovative and inclusionary approaches to planning, the city has an “Olympic Opportunity” to shape its the future of its most vulnerable residents and build a new urban practice that achieve a dramatically better results for low income people.