Chicago 2016 Hunting Fed Cash

Posted on September 30th, 2009 in All Articles, Bronzeville.

Crains mentions that the 2016 team is hunting fed cash…see below…

Chicago 2016 hunts fed cash

By: Paul Merrion September 28, 2009

Chicago and the Obama administration are exploring ways the federal government can bolster the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games with financial support for the $1-billion Olympic Village.

Crain’s has learned that senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Lori Healey, president of the Chicago 2016 committee, met this month with top officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to discuss financing options for the village, the single biggest project — and question mark — in the city’s bid.

The main hurdle facing Chicago is coming up with a long-range plan for an Olympic Village that is commercially viable while meeting objectives of existing HUD programs that could be tapped for funds, such as low-income housing tax credits and grants or loan guarantees for community development, affordable housing or housing for seniors.

“I think it’s premature to talk about what the funding might be,” says Ms. Jarrett, a former co-chair of Chicago 2016 and city planning commissioner who now heads White House efforts to help Chicago’s bid. “A proposal has not been made to the federal government, but the administration is not closing the door” on anything, she adds. The administation “obviously (is) willing to meet and listen.”

While the Olympics in Atlanta and Salt Lake City received a few million dollars in federal housing funds, the U.S. government spent hundreds of millions on security, transportation and other infrastructure needs besides housing. In other countries, however, host governments have picked up or guaranteed most or all of the tab to house athletes.

With credit scarce and the housing market bleak for developers, merely a promise of federal help for the village could be an important talking point if questions about the city’s plan for housing athletes are raised during the International Olympic Committee meeting this week in Copenhagen. On Friday, the IOC will announce which city will host the 2016 games; Chicago is competing against Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

“Given that uncertainty of financing for (Chicago’s) village was one issue raised by the IOC, clarification of that would be good for the bid,” says Ed Hula, editor of AroundtheRings.com, an Olympics news Web site.

The city proposes that the village be built on the former site of Michael Reese Hospital, just south of McCormick Place, by one or more private developers that would later convert the property into several thousand marketable condos and apartments. While the city has received non-binding letters of intent from several developers and their financiers, no agreements have been reached.

“We’re very bullish on this project,” says Ron Shipka Sr., principal at Enterprise Cos., a Chicago real estate investor that has lined up financing and expressed interest in developing the Olympic Village. While he’s confident the project can be financed, federal housing support “is obviously a help because it’s a source of money. It would be a great idea to have that.”

Experts say a concerted effort to tap federal housing and community development funds for the Olympics would be complex but achievable. “There are myriad programs,” says Steven Preston, who was HUD secretary during the last Bush administration. “You have to connect dots between what you’re trying to achieve and what funding is available.”

Originally, the plan was to convert 90% of the village into pricey lakefront condominiums. Chicago 2016 organizers now have committed to convert 20% to 30% of the village into affordable housing, and the Chicago Housing Authority has expressed interest in 15% of the project for public housing.

“You can see the emerging players coming together to make it work,” says Kevin Johnson, executive director of Chicago Rehab Network, a housing advocacy group that pushed for the 30% affordable housing component. “I can’t think of any reason why HUD money couldn’t support the village.”

Obama administration officials have said they plan to take an interagency approach to urban problems, so coordinated federal housing and transportation support for the Olympic Village could help address long-term needs of the South Side.

“The Olympics are a great opportunity for the Obama administration to show what it wants to do,” says MarySue Barrett, president of Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, which has a task force developing long-term infrastructure goals for the Olympics. “We’re a laboratory.”

Greg Hinz contributed.

©2009 by Crain Communications Inc.