New details emerge on Columbia Point, Franklin Park impacts
Proponents of Boston 2024’s Olympic bid outlined elements of the presentation that won the city a seat at the international table last month during a press conference held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this afternoon. The presentation brought to light new details about how the Games might directly impact Dorchester, particularly Columbia Point and Franklin Park.
Officials from Boston 2024— including president Dan O’Connell —fielded questions from reporters following a briefing, which lasted for just under 30 minutes. Architect David Manfredi and Paralympian Cheri Baluwet used slides and language that was shown to the US Olympic Committee (USOC) on December 16 in California. In January, the USOC selected Boston as the official US candidate for the summer games in 2024. The committee will submit a formal application in September 2015. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the 2024 host city by September 2017.
According to the presentation— and documents made available to reporters— the Olympic Games would mainly be staged within two identified “clusters” in the city: The first— dubbed the “Waterfront Cluster” — stretches from South Boston’s Fort Point, west to Widett Circle, and south past Columbia Point in Dorchester. A second “University Cluster” would be concentrated at the intersection of MIT, Harvard, and Boston University at the bend of the Charles River.
As previously reported, a proposed ‘Athletes Village’ — described as a “secure, 100 acre compound”— would be sited in Dorchester on what is now part of UMass Boston’s campus. The specific waterfront site is located on what was once the Bayside Expo Center, which the university presently uses as a satellite parking lot and hopes to use in the future for student housing.
In the Boston 2024 presentation, the proposed Bayside site is described as: “Located adjacent to the core of the UMass Boston campus, 6,000 to 10,000 of the 16,500 beds will be constructed prior to the games as student housing to ‘accommodate the ambitious vision for Boston’s only public university.’”
The Bayside location is highlighted for its proximity to the proposed 60,000 seat temporary Olympic Stadium, which would be used to stage the opening and closing ceremonies. The facility would be sited at what is now known as Widett Circle in the curve of the Expressway on the Dorchester- South Boston line. Boston 2024 re-names this section “Midtown” and calls for direct pedestrian access between the stadium and South Station.
When asked by reporters during a 40 minute Q&A session if a alternate site might be considered for the Olympic Stadium, Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell said Suffolk Downs location was possible, but “we have not pursued that at all to date.”
Today’s presentation also brought to light new information about Equestrian-themed venues that would be located at Franklin Park, including on what is now the city-owned William J. Devine Golf Course.
According to the Boston 2024 briefing document: “Franklin Park offers varied terrain, water and exceptional viewing areas. The second oldest public golf course in America, currently in need of reinvestment, will be rebuilt after the Games,” the document explains. “Franklin Park will also house the Modern Pentahalon in a rebuilt White Stadium, scheduled to be significantly improved in the next two years as the home of BPS football, track and field and the Boston Scholar Athletes program.”
White Stadium is a city-owned facility that is frequently used for high school sporting events. However, Laura Oggeri — the Communications Director for Mayor Walsh— said that plans to renovate the facility are presently “on hold.”
“The renovation of White Stadium is on hold due to rising costs for the project,” said Oggeri in a statement to the Reporter. “It is a complex project that would require significant city investment if it moves forward. Plans to renovate the stadium were made under the previous administration.”
Oggeri continued: “Mayor Walsh recognizes that White Stadium is a vital neighborhood asset and the City is doing their due diligence to consider a worthy proposal at the site that meets the need of the community while protecting taxpayer dollars.”
Walsh has repeatedly said that the city would not use taxpayer dollars to build venues that would be used strictly for the Olympics.
During the presentation, Manfredi spent fewer than five minutes on the games’ transportation necessities, but assured reporters that the state’s most recent transportation bond bill “authorizes additional important infrastructure improvements.”
Last week, the Reporter found that two major infrastructure improvements that had been cited by Boston 2024 officials— including upgrades to JFK/UMass station and a fix to traffic-clogged Kosciuszko Circle— were not included in last year’s bond bill.
O’Connell said Boston 2024 was studying a public-private partnership component to fund and build essential projects, including JFK/UMass Station.
“We would look to the developer developing a portion of the housing at UMass to undertake transit improvements that would be beneficial to the station,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell also pointed to funding for additional Red Line trains that were approved in last year’s transportation bond bill as a benefit to the proposal. He said additional space for bus transfer would be key for athletes getting to and from the city and the Athletes’ Village.
The Olympic Games in Boston would take place Friday, July 19, 2024 to Sunday, Aug. 4, 2024. The Paralympic games will take place Wednesday, Aug. 14 to Sunday, Aug. 25.
Eliza Dewey and Bill Forry contributed reporting to this article.