Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mega events and local benefits

PriceWaterhouse Consultancy has produced a report, Game on: Mega-event infrastructure opportunities, which states that countries holding mega events such as the Olympics or soccer's World Cup can accelerate development by as much as 30 years.

From the press release:

According to the report, success in hosting a mega-event is partly determined by the supporting infrastructure required for both athletes and spectators. Bid winners often begin planning far ahead of the actual event, often a decade or more in advance, allowing the host cities and regions to start realizing positive benefits prior to the actual event taking place. For instance, planning for the 2015 Pan Am games began in 2007, some eight years ahead of the event. The 2015 Games will include a multi-billion dollar investment in the GTA and Hamilton for new sports venues and facility upgrades, including the athlete's village, the Pan Am stadium, velodrome, aquatics centre, field house, and Canadian Sport Institute complex.

"When a city plans ahead for the infrastructure required for sporting events like the Olympics and the Pan Am Games, the results are transformative," says Bidulka. "Advance planning in this case includes anticipating and planning for the legacy effects that can improve residents' quality of life and enhance the region's business competitiveness, resulting in long-term economic gain."

The key is planning.

Much of the time, events or projects for that matter, are touted for their economic development power and prospects, and the result ends up being minimal.

It's because there isn't really a plan designed to leverage the event/project in ways that extend beyond the confines of the site.

Places that benefit from major events and the construction of infrastructure do so through robust planning in advance.

For example, in British Columbia, significant initiatives promoted cultural planning throughout the province (in fact, I link to cultural planning toolkits and other documents from that effort in the right sidebar) in advance of the Olympics, allowing the event to be leveraged.

In DC, while not a major event, I think that the lack of planning for improvement of the 7th and 9th Street commercial corridors in advance of the opening of the Washington Convention Center is why those corridors continue to languish, many years after the opening of center (and also because Convention Centers aren't designed to let people out, they draw people in for events, and then people leave). But had money and time been invested in those corridors specifically, likely they would have improved, and the Convention Center could have been better leveraged as an economic tool that supported more than just area hotels.

This is hardly an exception. It's actually quite typical. Development is heralded as bringing all kinds of benefits, but without specific programs in place to realize the benefits, it can take decades to see results.

It's the difference between trickle down expectations and planning and creating the programs and infrastructure necessary to realized linked improvements.

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