The news: Chicago is among the finalists to host the 2016 Olympic Games, a move that could spark economic development in the Washington Park community–”site of a proposed temporary Olympic stadium.
Behind the news: It’s too early to tell, but the Olympics are no guarantee for communitywide economic growth.
There hasn’t been a rush to develop property in the neighborhood since it was selected as the site of the proposed temporary Olympic stadium, which would be converted into a smaller amphitheater after the Olympics.
“Property’s been appreciating, but not at any faster rate than before,” said 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, whose ward includes parts of Washington Park.
The neighborhood could see a spark in commercial development if Chicago is ultimately selected to host the Olympics, says Jim Kutill, a vice president of Appraisal Research Counselors. “Shopping dollars still leave the neighborhood,” he said.
Washington Park residents spent an estimated $64 million more than businesses in the community took in during 2006, according to LISC Metro Edge.
But the commercial legacy could be underwhelming if Washington Park’s development follows that of majority black and low-income neighborhoods in Atlanta, where an Olympic Stadium was built for the 1996 Olympics. A decade later, the area looks much the same as before, according to Cantey Davis, president of First Multiple Listing Service, one of two major real estate listing services in Atlanta.
“The only effect has been in the immediate surrounding blocks,” Davis said. “In terms of any kind of revitalization, once you get two or three blocks away, you wouldn’t know that anything has changed.”