In our recurring series, “With a Side of (Ed) Bacon”, we take a look at big ideas, paying homage to a man who looms pretty large as far as planners go, and with good reason: He was instrumental in bringing about some of the largest physical transformations that we experience in Philadelphia today.
When was the last time you saw a city planner on the cover of a national magazine? Yeah, that’s what I thought. (Photo courtesy of Time Magazine)
Today’s big idea comes to us from the Cultural Economy section of the Citywide Vision (from the Economic Development element). That idea is the Olympics, as in, should we/could we/would we host them? This has been on our minds since we watched London shine last month, and we were reminded again when our own Mayor Nutter discussed hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention while he was spreading the Philly love down in Charlotte just a week or so ago.
Philly has considered an Olympic bid before, and pretty recently. We threw our hat into the ring for the 2016 games and were denied. There’s growing interest in giving it the old college try again, for 2024. There’s also folks out there looking to come up with an extra special way to mark 2026, our nation’s 250th. There’s something appealing about rolling it all into one raucous party during which Philly achieves global media domination.
This ain’t our first rodeo: Philly absolutely nailed it in 1876 with this jam-packed centennial celebration. 150 years later, are we ready to do it again?
From a planning standpoint, it’s also hard to ignore that Olympic cities often find themselves better positioned to implement majorly transformative projects – new transit lines, beautification projects, etc – that serve the city long after the games close (and get us closer to the vision of 2035). By the same token, there’s a lot of real-life examples out there of cities not knowing what to do with their Olympic legacy projects: abandoned stadia, residential villages for athletes that never quite segued into something more sustainable, etc. Philly would need to think long and hard about where to invest, and how to do so to ensure that we were creating projects of lasting value that could provide community amenities, new housing options, and improved circulation way beyond 2024 or 2026.
So what do you think? Specifically, what we’re pondering is the following:
1) Do you think we could pull it off (it being the 2024 Olympic games, a 2026 birthday bash for the US of A, or some hybrid)?
2) What investments do you see as critical for the success of such an event (we’re talking transportation improvements, neighborhood revitalization, other infrastructure, etc)?
3) (related to #2) Where would you put stuff??
Put on your planner hat, and let us know. Would the Olympic village fit nicely into an existing neighborhood, perhaps rising Piazza-style from the ruins of an abandoned industrial complex? Could our existing Sports Complex become even bigger, supporting more venues and the olympic village as well to create a ground-up, brand-new neighborhood of athletic awesomeness? Is it time to kick it 1876 style and reinvent the Centennial District – or maybe all of Fairmount Park – as an olympic festival fair ground? Could such re-imagined places succeed after the closing ceremonies? What would you want to improve for the thousands if not millions of visitors who would descend on us to enjoy these events? What wacky acts would you insert into our opening and closing ceremonies since hundreds of flying Mary Poppins is so played out?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. You never know when the city might need to kick into high gear and start thinking about this stuff. If only there were an agency that could take the time to focus on the future and do the kind of number crunching needed to support such a vision. Oh, that’s us. Sweet.
We were thinking maybe a few hundred flying Haley Joel Osment’s battling dead people…thoughts? (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)