Four years later Cleveland Skylift plan to link downtown by gondolas still moving forward

CLEVELAND - Four years after the Cleveland Skylift project was announced, plans are still moving forward for the aerial transportation connecting people to Cleveland attractions via cable cars moving above downtown and the waterfront.

"This is something that can actually help to sort of highlight what's going on in the city and connect some of our key assets," said Planning Commission Chair Freddy Collier in introducing the man behind the project President & CEO of LeanDog Jon Stahl. "We just want to make sure that we get a reaction from the Planning Commission on how we can move forward on the prospect of something like this in Cleveland's future."

That's why Stahl was here, he's come up with a proposed route and researched every aspect of the project that he can but to take it to the next level he needs to know the city's behind it.

"I need to raise capital to get through due diligence and really do the engineering and the details behind this and I can't do that unless I have kind of the blessing of the city that they'll help me remove the roadblocks," Stahl said.

"I can't take in any investment capital if somebody's going to go there's no way this will ever happen."

Stahl stressed in his presentation the "transportainment" aspect of the project that will utilize the latest in technology to make the trips an experience while promoting the attractions below.

"So imagine you're a tourist and you're flying by [FirstEnergy] Stadium and you're like 'hey I'd like to go to a Steelers Cleveland game, what seats are available,'" Stahl told the commissioners.

"'Ok show me the seats under $100,' okay now what would it be like to be in that seat. At that point we can turn this cable car into virtual reality and I can put you in that seat in the stadium and actually watch a play as if you're sitting in the stadium, pop back out of virtual reality and hit buy and buy that seat for a game."

Stahl said his goal of the meeting was to get the commission excited again about the project so that he can then hopefully meet with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and get his thoughts.

Stahl's company LeanDog is located on Lake Erie in the old floating barge that was for years Hornblower's Restaurant. He said he watches busloads of kids go to the Great Lakes Science Museum shifting from bus to building without ever appreciating where they're at, this would be way to expand the educational experience. He also noted that many of those in town for the RNC never had a chance to truly appreciate the lake.

"I think having an elevated way to see our lake and travel across our lake and our rivers would just really enhance the experience for anybody who is coming to Cleveland for the first time," he said.

As for a timeframe Stahl said "It's going to take 12-18 months to build the cable car system, it's going to take four months for due diligence. I don't know how long it's going to take to raise capital because I've never done anything of this scale," he said. A point he'd like to be at a year from now.

"The key is I have to time it with everything else going on in the city, so for example if the multi-modal transportation hub goes up, when they engineer that hub they have to engineer it for the load capacity of pulling cable cars."

"So that's the biggest challenge of this project is making sure all of those points go up at the same time and are all engineered to support the cable car system," he said. 

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