Boston 2024 bolsters its case; questions remain

It has been a good week for proponents of bringing the 2024 Olympic Games to Boston.

For starters, the latest iteration of the organization’s proposal — released on Monday—brought to light important new details that will help the public scrutinize and weigh the costs and benefits of bringing the Games to our neighborhoods.

Bid 2.0 – as it’s called – brings clarity to how organizers intend to structure and pay for the Games; how they could transform neighborhoods like Columbia Point into more vibrant, mixed-use communities; and how the legacy of the Games could benefit our community long after the stadiums come down.

On Tuesday, members of the United States Olympic Committee gave the bid another boost by affirming their intention to stick with Boston and help the city lobby Massachusetts voters on the subject. Gov. Charlie Baker, who has been circumspect on the Olympics idea, sounded positive notes about Bid 2.0 and suggested that a referendum on the matter should be put to the voters early next year.

Opponents of Boston 2024, meanwhile, have shown poor judgment on more than one front. On the extreme end, picketing outside the mayor’s house at 4 a.m. (when he’s not even at home) is a sure-fire way to shift public opinion in this neighborhood toward the Olympics bid. Activists who think that’s helping their cause are badly misinformed. Meanwhile, moderate voices within the anti-Olympic movement sounded a sour note by complaining about Gov. Baker’s idea of fast-tracking a vote to spring 2016.

The Reporter has remained neutral on the subject of whether or not the Games should come to Boston and, more specifically, Dorchester. That remains our position as of this writing. Organizers still have hurdles to clear to win our support. But it is fair to say that by incorporating public input into their changing plans – and being forthright about what the public costs will be – Boston 2024 has made positive strides this week.

There is much more that needs to be done, especially in and around Columbia Point, where the massive Athletes’ Village would be built. Boston 2024 needs to convene a public meeting of Columbia Point stakeholders— and abutting civic leadership from Harbor Point, Columbia-Savin Hill, the Polish Triangle and South Boston— to discuss forming a collective vision for the peninsula that would help to blend past planning initiatives with this new and transformative Olympic proposal.

In particular, there should be a full discussion of what sort of public infrastructure will be left in the wake of the Games.

This week, Boston 2024 introduced the idea of eliminating the traffic rotary at Kosciuszko Circle and replacing it with a four-way intersection and alternative roadways. That may make sense for the Games, but how would such a dramatic change impact traditional traffic into and out of the city?

On that point, a thorough examination of existing conditions and more potential engineering options needs to be fully vetted at the community level. State and city lawmakers, who have signaled an interest in “fixing” Kosciuszko Circle whether or not the Olympics come, should fund an overdue study that will examine these options more fully — and give a more precise picture of what the public costs could be.

And the community needs more input into how 4,000 units of housing will be transitioned from athletes’ quarters to the marketplace, with a particular eye to building in more affordable homes for middle and lower-income Bostonians.

The Olympics movement is gaining traction here, not because the idea itself is an easy sell or even, necessarily, the ideal final outcome. We could still decide to say, ‘No, thank you.’

But, as promised by Mayor Walsh and others, the prospect of hosting an Olympics Games in Boston is generating exciting ideas and conversations about how we can design the future. It’s time to engage fully in this dialogue, not because it is the only way to plan, but because it is a viable and potentially rewarding exercise in imagining what Boston can become over the next half-century.