Report calls for overseeing Olympics agency

Charles Krupa/Associated Press/File

State lawmakers should establish and fund a new public commission with the power to impose binding conditions on Boston’s Olympic bid, and the responsibility of overseeing a vast planning effort to guide the long-term legacy of the Games, according to a new report by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and two other planning organizations.

“It is especially important that a single entity take responsibility for convening . . . interested parties, keeping everyone engaged, raising and addressing key questions, and making sure that the legacy impacts of the Games remain front and center,” according to a copy of the report shared with the Globe. “To date, no one has filled that role.”


The three-month study, scheduled to be released Tuesday, acknowledges potential benefits and possible harms of hosting the Games, but does not directly take a side in the noisy public debate over whether the city should get behind a proposal to bring the 2024 Summer Games to Boston and other venues in Massachusetts.

“The Olympic bid — like many powerful ideas — carries with it the prospect of great reward, and the risk of great failure,” states the report, which was prepared by the Planning Council, Transportation for Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance.

The report, which suggests that intensive planning would give the region the best chance of developing a successful legacy from a bid, offers dozens of recommendations for public officials and Olympic planners in the areas of transportation, housing, and the environment. It also makes specific proposals regarding three key venue sites: Widett Circle, Columbia Point, and the Beacon Yards area.

“The first step is to ask the right questions, and the most important question is this: How can we leverage the planning and investment for the Olympic Games to make Greater Boston a more connected, livable, and prosperous region — regardless of whether our bid is chosen, and even after the Games are over?” the report reads.


Marc Draisen, director of the Planning Council, said a new Olympic Planning Commission would not replace or duplicate the role of Boston 2024, a private nonprofit that would remain in charge of finalizing the bid and trying to win the Games. A new public commission, he said, would be better positioned to coordinate permitting for venues, and involve municipal governments in the planning for the Games.

“There is a need for coordination across city lines,” he said in an interview.

In their 50-page report, the planning organizations offered support for public infrastructure spending related to the Games that “would be worthwhile investments even if Boston were not to be awarded the Olympics,” taking a position similar to those of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker.

The report also calls for Boston 2024 to apply some of its private funding to public infrastructure, such as pedestrian and biking improvements at JFK/UMass Station and nearby Kosciuszko Circle, near the proposed site of an athlete’s village on land owned by the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“The public has a legitimate role to play in repairing, modernizing, and expanding infrastructure that will last beyond the Games, just as the private sector has a role to play in supporting improvements that will advance the Olympic bid and make the Games more successful,” the report states.

The report endorses the use of what it calls “value capture” public financing to pay for infrastructure, which can use future increases in tax revenue created by infrastructure improvements to help pay for those improvements.


“It is the way public infrastructure is financed all around the US and all over the world,” Draisen said.

Boston 2024’s original venue plan proposed this type of financing arrangement to pay for infrastructure in Widett Circle, where the committee wants to build a temporary Olympic stadium. The committee redacted the financing proposal from bid documents released to the public in January, and was heavily criticized for editing the information after the original documents came to light in May through public records requests.

Boston 2024 has pledged to release a new venue plan this month that will provide more detailed revenue and cost estimates for the Games, and explain how the committee intends to finance the two most challenging Olympic facilities: the stadium and the athletes’ village. The bid committee has long said a Boston Olympics would be compact and walkable, though the first venue announced under the new plan moved Olympic sailing from Boston Harbor to Buzzards Bay off New Bedford. The majority of the venues are expected to stay in and around Boston under the new plan.

The report recommended that Boston 2024 do more to encourage bike travel, such as contributing planning expertise and money to “a connected network of high-quality protected bike lanes for spectators to travel between venues and other destinations.” Also, Olympic venues should have ample bike parking and Hubway bike share stations, the report states. The report also suggests Boston 2024 explore a new ferry service to connect Olympic venues along the Charles River — a venture that could live on after the Games as a commuter ferry or water taxi service.


On housing, the report warns that some prior Olympics have resulted in the displacement of residents. To prevent this, the report says, state and city governments should adopt tenant protections, among other recommendations.

“This package should prohibit the following: no-fault evictions during the year preceding the Games, summer surcharges or other temporary rent increases, and/or ‘short-leases’ designed to end before the Games begin,” the report states.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.