A new proposal would bring airborne gondolas to downtown Chicago

Windy City?

A new proposal would bring airborne gondolas to downtown Chicago

New York and London-based firms Davis Brody Bond and Marks Barfield have put together the initial plans of a gondola network that would run through Chicago’s city center. Called the “Chicago Skyline,” the idea is the brainchild of businessmen, Lou Raizin, founder of Broadway in Chicago and Laurence Geller, chairman and CEO of Geller Capital Partners.

The gondolas would serve as a major tourist attraction, showcasing Chicago’s architectural splendor while also establishing a link, unhindered by traffic, to major sight-seeing locations and areas of interest such as the lakefront, downtown, riverwalk, Millennium Park, and the Navy pier.

Aside from shuttling tourist’s across the city, the system would offer a unique view of Chicago’s famed high-rise cityscape. Previously unobtainable views over trees and across the river would cast the city in a new light and no doubt become a must-do for visitors.

“The Skyline is a prime example of how we can move Chicago from old guard to vanguard,” said Lou Raizin in the Chicago Tribune. “We kept coming back to the same question: What’s our unique feature? Where’s our Eiffel Tower? Where’s our Big Ben? These ideas are our attempt to answer this question and are intended to start a conversation in the city about what we would like our reputation to be in the future.”

“If the will of the people is there, this project flies literally,” he added. “This is iconic,” said Geller meanwhile, going onto add that “the world requests iconic destinations.”

As for capacity, designers have so far catered for up to 3,000 riders an hour with journeys lasting around 30 minutes. The cable-cars would travel at just under 9 miles per hour at 800 feet above street level, operating year-round. Fare prices meanwhile, are yet to be determined, however, the Tribune reports they are likely fall within the range of other ticketed vantage points like the observation decks at the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center, at around $20.

The project would cost $250 million, and while Geller believes it could be paid for privately, he and Raizin are currently seeking public comments on the idea.

A statement from the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said: “These investments, which don’t require taxpayer dollars, create good-paying jobs, pump money into our neighborhood economies, and increase educational and cultural opportunities for city youth. The Mayor welcomes a dialogue about any proposals that meet these goals.”

“We believe the way forward is by showcasing Chicago as a city of neighborhoods and building projects that capture the mind and inspire the soul of both residents and visitors alike,” said Geller in a press release.

Of the two design firms on the project, both can boast an established pedigree in observation and cable-based projects. David Marks of Marks Barfield for example, worked on the London Eye, which has subsequently become Britain’s most lucrative tourist attraction. Davis Brody Bond on the other hand, was the architect behind the September 11 Memorial Museum in New York while also being a cable lift manufacturer and of Walsh Construction, the company that built the Riverwalk and Maggie Daley Park.