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A new report from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance and Transportation for Massachusetts is calling for a new statewide planning commission to coordinate preparations for hosting the Olympic Games, even if Massachusetts voters eventually reject the 2024 bid.
"This is a very complicated planning project," said Marc Draisen, executive director of the MAPC, which took the lead on the report. "It's complicated physically, financially and politically."
The report concludes that the prospect of Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics presents opportunities to build more housing, improve transit infrastructure, and create jobs. The report suggests Olympic planning could present an opportunity to make Boston more resilient to climate change. But it also highlights risks of rising housing prices and of "displacement" — residents forced to move away.
While many individual municipalities would have authority over permitting and planning, Draisen said a statewide planning commission would be necessary to have a single, coordinated approach that would keep the focus on legacy.
"If we do it right, it can really provide something to the region long term," Draisen said. "It's a big task. It's a big job. It doesn't just happen. But it could happen, and it could be very valuable."
The report supports an Olympics that is fully accessible by public transit, bicycling and walking. However, the private group pushing Boston's bid, Boston 2024, plans to present a revision, by the end of the month, that is likely to include moving some events outside of Greater Boston. Last week, Boston 2024 announced in New Bedford that Olympic sailing events would be held on Buzzards Bay there, instead of Boston Harbor.
MAPC is a public agency serving metro Boston.
"It would not be a particularly expensive undertaking, but there would need to be probably a modest staff," Draisen said of a planning commission. "I don't object to the idea that maybe the private sector to make a contribution to that effort over time. But I think that would be a very worthwhile state investment in the planning process."
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