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Blog & News Releases

Friday, August 5, 2022

Eliminating Financial Risk to the City

For years we’ve worked hard to show you how truly transformational an urban gondola would be for our city. Throughout the process, we’ve listened carefully and heard your thoughts and concerns regarding the project. We’ve engaged in conversation and answered countless questions. We’ve listened to you, and one concern that comes up time and time again is the question of financial risk to the City and its taxpayers. 


We can say with certainty that there is no financial risk to the City and its taxpayers, but that's not enough. A statement without its evidence holds little value; we believe explanation and transparency are the best ways to build trust and dispel any remaining concerns.  


The gondola project always has, and will always be, an entirely privately-funded venture — it will never cost the City or its taxpayers any money, either directly or indirectly. In fact, the City will make money from our city building investment in the core.


Yes, it’s a bold statement, but here’s why we can say it with such certainty. 


On August 10th, Council’s executive committee will review our deal and the outcome will determine the next steps of our journey.


To proceed with design development and into the regulatory process, we must receive conditional approval from City Council for two agreements — one is a lease for the stations lands and the other is for the infrastructure right-of-way.


Our deal with the City lays everything out in the open – it is clear, transparent and clean. And, importantly, it is also conditional on robust public & Indigenous engagement and regulatory work that we are responsible for. We can still fail to ever put a shovel in the ground, but we will take that risk if Council conditionally supports our two agreements. 


Here are some key features we wanted to share with you.


First, the term of these agreements is 30 years with the option to extend them for an additional two 30 year periods.   


Second, we have agreed to provide a decommissioning bond to the City — this bond effectively eliminates all financial risk for the City. Should we fail, this bond will cover the cost of the removal of the stations and infrastructure and remediate each site to its previous condition. We are paying for this bond, the City is not. And it will be in place for the duration of our project’s existence.


Third, we are paying full market rent for both the land lease and infrastructure right-of-way. Combined, this is more than $1 million per year for the City and will increase every year. In addition to rents, we are paying our full share of property tax. We do not have a special tax agreement, nor did we request one. The amount of rent we are committed to pay and the amount of tax we will pay will be determined solely by the City.

 

Finally, our team has worked with Administration to negotiate these agreements, and both sides are in support of them; we both want to move forward. City Administration has focused on protecting the interest of the taxpayers and developed a draft motion for Council to carry – a clear sign indicating a willingness to move forward.


“That the terms and conditions outlined in Attachment 3 and 4 between The City of Edmonton and Prairie Sky Gondola Inc. of the August 10, 2022, Financial and Corporate Services report FCS01252 be approved, and that the lease and licence agreements be in a form and content acceptable to the City Manager.”— Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreements: Draft Motion

 

Take a look for yourself at the drafted motion and Administration reports here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Cities Committed to Meaningful Climate Action Love Gondolas

Let’s begin with a trivia question

 

What are the top three climate-friendly modes of urban transportation?

 

The answer.

 

  1. Walking.

  2. Cycling.

  3. Urban ropeways.

 

 

For many, the gondola project might feel like a large infrastructure project. It certainly is in spirit and vision. But in terms of materials, footprint, emissions, and impact on the river valley, it is actually quite small.

 

While it is a project with an enormous impact on our ability to celebrate and sell our city, its environmental impact is very limited. In fact, the gondola is a sustainability-focused project. Climate action-oriented cities across the world are embracing urban ropeway technology as a new and exciting way to move people from one cool spot to another without increasing their carbon footprint.

 

Our team knows how much Edmontonians value iconic experiences in our city. We also know how much they support meaningful climate action and maintaining the natural integrity of our blessed river valley.

 

We share these values and realize these are the values that will make our project successful over the long term.

 

Here are some meaningful facts:

 

  • The ropeway will be flying between 10 and 38 meters high, way above the treeline, eliminating the need to cut trees

  • Only two of the 18 towers will be in the trees and forests by the river, and only one is in an undeveloped area.

  • The base of the tower is less than three metres in diameter and requires little disruption.

  • There is basically no embodied carbon, with no need for cement-intensive platforms, tunnels or bridges.

  • There are no fumes, air pollution, or particulate matter produced.

  • All the cabins will be solar-powered, and we are eager to do the same for the stations.

  • The ropeway itself will run on solar, wind and other green energy sources.

  • We will use a Central Electric Drive, which has a highly energy-efficient motor system. It uses 0.1 Kilowatts per one km trip per passenger, or the equivalent of a few minutes of using a hair dryer.

 

As Edmontonians, we all know and experience the disruptions associated with big infrastructure projects. In our case, construction is extremely time limited and isn’t needed throughout its 2.5 km alignment, which prevents the need for lengthy road closures, eliminating any conflict with drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and other existing modes of transportation.

 

Once the gondola is completed, it will integrate seamlessly with all other sustainable transportation modes such as transit, cycling and pedestrian activity.

 

And yeah- bikes are totally encouraged on board the cabins.

There has been a fair bit of meaningful discussion about the impact the gondola will have on the river valley. Our position has been that collectively, our team, our board and our investors are only interested in enhancing people’s experiences in and with the river valley. We know this is Edmonton’s crown jewel.

 

And how about the River Valley you ask?

As we’ve said, only two of the 18 towers will be in the forest or trees by the river, and only one touches a sensitive area. The extensive environmental impact assessment required as part of the rezoning application will offer us mitigation strategies to inform our approach to minimize any impacts.

 

We have already relocated one tower that was designed to be on the riverbank near the powerplant to a spot outside of the valley.

 

We are not like ski hills. Our cabins will travel well above the tree line and require absolutely no clearcutting of trees under its alignment.

 

Urban gondolas are notoriously very quiet. When in operation, the sound is comparable to the quiet rural outdoors or the hum of a small meeting room discussion

 

Much of the infrastructure is assembled offsite and can be installed in days rather than months or years.

 

And most importantly, biodiversity and wildlife corridors are unaffected.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Prairie Sky Gondola was born out of community engagement

 

How have we engaged with Edmonton?

 

The Prairie Sky gondola’s whole life in Edmonton’s public discourse has been defined by community engagement.

 

The mere idea of an urban ropeway from Whyte Avenue, across the river, down to Rossdale and up to downtown is as engaging of an idea as you can find.

 

It’s audacious. It’s bold. It’s initially provocative. It’s deeply integrated with Edmonton’s most ambitious expressions.

 

Our urban ropeway project is an idea from some of the most creative and engaged members of our community.

 

The Edmonton Project asked Edmontonians to think big and to take a risk. It asked us to design and propose something amazing that would make our city stand out – that would make us a place to remember. This is the kind of engagement that delivers greatness if we’re prepared to embrace it.

 

However, before we asked Edmontonians to embrace it, we had to show you our stuff. We needed to have a long conversation with as many of you as we could muster to share our passion, our excitement and our belief that this project could make us an even greater city than we are today, a city where amazing ideas can take hold and become part of the magic that keeps us here and invites so many others to join us.

 

For two full years, the Prairie Sky Gondola project has been a topic of a lot of conversation in Edmonton. It’s been talked about in the mainstream media, on social media, at dinner tables, patios, backyard bbq’s and in offices and workplaces all over the city.

 

But our intention has always been to leave no stone unturned. We have hosted many walks along our proposed alignment, tours of the power plant in Rossdale, PowerPoint presentations to community groups and leagues, weekly pop-up events at farmers’ markets and events like Al Fresco. We’ve answered hundreds of emails and questions on social media and through our website. And we continue to be available.

 

Community engagement to the Gondola proposal is like oxygen to the human body. We need it to thrive.

 

As we’ve described in our recent blog posts, the experience the Gondola will provide to residents and tourists alike will be breathtaking. It will become one of those special things a great city is known for. It will be a connector of people to each other and to Edmonton’s beloved places like Whyte Avenue, the River Valley and Downtown. It will be a model of fully inclusive accessibility- welcoming Edmontonians of every age and stage.

 

Our engagement to date has been about inciting your imagination and about answering your good questions about the details and the fine print. We’ve worked very hard to show you what’s possible and to explain how it will all work to enhance our city, our main streets, our river valley and our sense of pride. Through all of this we have also made it crystal clear that any financial risk associated with the project is borne solely by private investors.

 

What’s next?

 

There are two upcoming levels of engagement that are required for our project to succeed. They are non-negotiable. These are our engagement with the Indigenous community and the prescribed regulatory engagement set out by law in the Municipal Government Act.

 

Our approach to Indigenous engagement began in ceremony with Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 Elders. We are excited to continue this work. It is fundamental to our success.

 

“I sat on the City of Edmonton procurement committee to advance Indigenous opportunities for the advancement of work and contracts. I see the gondola initiative as a green footprint for the environment, and we have followed the cultural protocols during our many steps to include Indigenous people. There will continue to be an advancement of opportunities for our people in this very important project, such as Indigenous tourism,” Cam Alexis, Prairie Sky Gondola Board member and Former Chief Alexis Natoka Sioux Nation.

 

We will have much more to say on our commitment to Indigenous engagement in the coming weeks.

 

The regulatory land use process will begin after we have received conditional approval on our real estate and infrastructure agreements with the City of Edmonton. City Council’s Executive Committee will address this on August 10th with an opportunity for all citizens to weigh in and share their perspectives at that meeting.

 

This will ensure that we have access to the land we need to construct the Gondola. Of course, all of this is subject to a rezoning application that is required to even proceed with the project at all. This process will be a robust year-long multi-faceted community engagement that will culminate in our city’s most democratic public space, Council Chambers. This promises to be a multi-day public hearing with dozens of speakers before Council’s final decision on whether or not to let us go into construction.

 

In the end, we know the approach we’ve taken to engaging our community on this bold vision has been the right one. It’s been long, meaningful and helpful in making our project even more Edmonton.

 

We have listened carefully, and there is much more to come. 

 

Read more here about our engagement process.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Gondola stations are catalysts

for connectivity

 

How are the gondola stations creating hubs that enhance connectivity?

 

Prairie Sky Gondola has always been committed to making Edmonton a more attractive, inviting and memorable city. We believe this project is a reflection of Edmonton’s ambition and beauty, and our desire to create experiences for residents and tourists alike that shape their perception of our city.

 

In establishing the locations of the stations, Prairie Sky Gondola has always been mindful of how they would complement and amplify existing City plans and initiatives, which have also been created to help people fall more in love with Edmonton. Essentially, we are tying some of Edmonton's best and most promising parts together as no other project can.

 

The Rossdale Power Plant Station is at the centre of the ropeway; it’s in the heart of it all and a mere 6-minute trip from both Strathcona and Downtown. The station will deliver a unique connection point to the River Valley as nothing else has before. This connection point opens up an entrance to the river valley parkway system and a world of opportunity in Edmonton’s core — from river and bike tours, to kayaking and paddle boarding, to an opportunity to experience rich and immersive Indigenous tourism that illuminates our original peoples connection to this historic site and to the river, and to simply enjoy the river front promenade being designed by the City of Edmonton’s Touch the Water Project and so much more.     

 

The Downtown Station will be a focal point in the upcoming McDougal Drive Pedestrian Bridge project. This pedestrian bridge will connect the station located below Telus Plaza to the funicular and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald outdoor patio area. It will also directly connect to the existing downtown bike network and pedestrian paths along the Macdonald Drive promenade. This connection will create a pedestrian-safe and friendly connection to the City’s Central Station, where people can seamlessly take the LRT or a bus. Our Downtown Station will also create a united public gathering space to enjoy an unparalleled view of Edmonton’s river valley and create indelible memories of our city.  

 

On the other side of the river, the Old Strathcona Station aligns with the prominent 83 Avenue bike lane, offering cyclists new ways to move from one side of the city to the other. Cyclists will be able to take their bikes into the cabins and extend their adventures. The Old Strathcona Station will also facilitate a seamless mass transit experience to go to Fringe, The Street Performers Festival, the Old Strathcona Farmers Market and to generally enjoy the many things that Whyte Avenue has to offer. 

 

We are proud to align with the City Plan, and the Edmonton gondola project will act as a catalyst that supplements and amplifies its vision and initiatives. At the heart of all of this is city building. Simply put, we believe there is no better way to create a stronger, more accessible and dynamic connection between Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue – all while breathing long needed oxygen into West Rossdale.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Prairie Sky Gondola

Creates Urban Connectivity 

 

How has the concept of 15-Minute Cities become a guiding principle of urban ropeways?

 

The concept of “15-Minute City” is fast becoming a guiding principle in great urban design — it’s the idea that people should be connected to all their basic needs, including entertainment, recreation, childcare, groceries, hospitality and education, all within a 15-minute walk. This concept is foundational in the Edmonton City Plan. This is in fact the experience the Prairie Sky Gondola will create. 

  

Great urban connectivity creates cities that are accessible, sustainable, and livable. The Edmonton gondola project will strengthen the City’s inner connectivity by bridging a crucial gap between our two main streets — Whyte Avenue and Jasper Avenue — and by providing unparalleled access to Rossdale and the North Saskatchewan River Valley.   

 

A city’s main streets are economic indicators and drivers, they tell us their story. Do you see people walking and stopping to say hello to friends on their way from a different community? Are you hearing children laughing while cycling by two teenagers who were getting a selfie in front of a newly discovered mural? Or are you walking alone on a wind-swept street with boarded store windows? 

 

Connectivity creates healthy streets and Edmonton gondola project is connectivity in action. It will be a catalyst that brings visibility, opportunity, and vibrancy to neighbourhoods.  The very hallmark of a great city is one where you wander without intent and discover compelling things along your way. 

 

The Main Street approach promotes a return to community self-expression. This concept recognizes the opportunity in the rebuilding of traditional commercial districts based on their own unique history, culture, and features. Our gondola stations will amplify these efforts by telling the history of the neighbourhoods in which they are situated, connect local businesses with new visitors, mirror distinctive local architecture, feature local artists and create pedestrian-friendly environments which further entrench a sense of belonging.  

  

Prairie Sky Gondola believes that at the core of connectivity is accessibility. Our stations and gondola cabins are specifically designed with this recognition in mind. We firmly subscribe to the idea that for cities to be accessible and enjoyed by everyone, they need to be designed and suitable for 8-month, 8-year and 80-year-olds.  The cabins will have seats that fold up to easily accommodate mobility aids, wheelchairs, scooters, bicycles, and strollers allowing everyone among us to share the same experience. The stations will all feature amenities such as washrooms and cafes that ensure your needs are always met, and you can fully enjoy your outing with ease. The gondola will indeed provide a barrier-free mobility experience.   

 

The Prairie Sky Gondola route will become a main street in its own right by creating experiences where one can linger along the line for hours enjoying the experiences offered at each of its stations and the incredible views of our city from above, sharing a hot meal by the river with friends, listening to an Indigenous elder describe their cultural connections with the land and the river or getting off your mountain bike to enjoy a well-deserved beer on a sunny patio – the choice is yours! 

Many factors contribute to a city’s attraction, vibrancy, and quality of life. We think of a city as many individual communities all coming together under one umbrella. The bridging and connectivity of the communities are vital in bringing people together to connect, explore, make memories and enjoy their city to its fullest extent. These experiences prompt tourists to come back and are a source of pride for residents.  

 

The Edmonton gondola project was born out of this desire to help our city become the most vibrant, livable, fun and memorable city that it can be. Creating a direct and immediate connection between Strathcona and our Downtown, and connecting both to the river valley at West Rossdale, will knit together a transportation corridor that is currently underserviced by mass transit. Imagine a 12-minute ride soaring over the Rossdale flats and our majestic river valley connecting a downtown resident to the Old Strathcona Farmers Market.

 

This increase in connectivity at the centre of our city will allow new spaces for people to discover and gather, creating an unparalleled energy and desire to live, play and work in those areas. This will sustain existing businesses and unlock investment opportunities for new residential and commercial development, reinforcing the City of Edmonton’s vision of a more compact and sustainable future. 

 

Prairie Sky Gondola will contribute to Edmonton as a place of innovative placemaking in a big way. We’ve considered the factors that make a public space memorable, and our stations reflect that. Gondola stations are uniquely designed to be places where people move but also as spaces creating a sense of place for those living nearby.

 

The stations will be community anchors for people to connect and destinations to have a coffee, drink, meal and to explore the rich tapestry of our past, our present and our future. Each station will have a theme that tells their communities’ story – Rossdale’s rich history as an original meeting place for Indigenous peoples dating back 12,000 years and the historic site of Fort Edmonton; Strathcona where the arts flourish with actors, street performers, vendors, artists and with a rich Francophone culture; and Downtown a place of innovation and excitement where you go out big thanks to festivals, museums, art galleries, concert venues, restaurants, bars and clubs.

 

The stations will not only be community hubs but catalysts for growth. One of Edmonton’s unique features is its small businesses — it’s a city of innovators and entrepreneurs. We recognize the impact of small and local businesses in enhancing our city’s character, and many of them have expressed that the gondola will help them reach the next level in their growth. There are many local tourism, sports and recreation business owners who would like to expand the types of experiences and activities they can offer; but to do this they need more than what already exists. The traffic and exposure accompanying the gondola stations will be key supporters of our small businesses helping them flourish. 

 

One of the best kept secrets of gondolas, is that they are places where experiences can be created. The gondola will offer an amazing array of experiences — from the uniquely themed stations and their amenities to the journey and views, the potential to explore areas that had previously been connectively limited, but also the cabins being programmed with music, food and art as part of a personalized and catered event.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Prairie Sky Gondola is a

Placemaking Dream

 

Take a second to think about and reflect on your favourite city. What stands out to you about it? 

What makes it so unique and memorable? Precisely what about it makes it your favourite city? 

 

Many factors contribute to a city’s attraction, vibrancy, and quality of life. We think of a city as many individual communities all coming together under one umbrella. The bridging and connectivity of the communities are vital in bringing people together to connect, explore, make memories and enjoy their city to its fullest extent. These experiences prompt tourists to come back and are a source of pride for residents.  

 

The Edmonton gondola project was born out of this desire to help our city become the most vibrant, livable, fun and memorable city that it can be. Creating a direct and immediate connection between Strathcona and our Downtown, and connecting both to the river valley at West Rossdale, will knit together a transportation corridor that is currently underserviced by mass transit. Imagine a 12-minute ride soaring over the Rossdale flats and our majestic river valley connecting a downtown resident to the Old Strathcona Farmers Market.

 

This increase in connectivity at the centre of our city will allow new spaces for people to discover and gather, creating an unparalleled energy and desire to live, play and work in those areas. This will sustain existing businesses and unlock investment opportunities for new residential and commercial development, reinforcing the City of Edmonton’s vision of a more compact and sustainable future. 

 

Prairie Sky Gondola will contribute to Edmonton as a place of innovative placemaking in a big way. We’ve considered the factors that make a public space memorable, and our stations reflect that. Gondola stations are uniquely designed to be places where people move but also as spaces creating a sense of place for those living nearby.

 

The stations will be community anchors for people to connect and destinations to have a coffee, drink, meal and to explore the rich tapestry of our past, our present and our future. Each station will have a theme that tells their communities’ story – Rossdale’s rich history as an original meeting place for Indigenous peoples dating back 12,000 years and the historic site of Fort Edmonton; Strathcona where the arts flourish with actors, street performers, vendors, artists and with a rich Francophone culture; and Downtown a place of innovation and excitement where you go out big thanks to festivals, museums, art galleries, concert venues, restaurants, bars and clubs.

 

The stations will not only be community hubs but catalysts for growth. One of Edmonton’s unique features is its small businesses — it’s a city of innovators and entrepreneurs. We recognize the impact of small and local businesses in enhancing our city’s character, and many of them have expressed that the gondola will help them reach the next level in their growth. There are many local tourism, sports and recreation business owners who would like to expand the types of experiences and activities they can offer; but to do this they need more than what already exists. The traffic and exposure accompanying the gondola stations will be key supporters of our small businesses helping them flourish. 

 

One of the best kept secrets of gondolas, is that they are places where experiences can be created. The gondola will offer an amazing array of experiences — from the uniquely themed stations and their amenities to the journey and views, the potential to explore areas that had previously been connectively limited, but also the cabins being programmed with music, food and art as part of a personalized and catered event.

 

The experience is truly about more than just transportation; it’s a romantic date over the river valley; a prime location for experiencing the firework display on Canada Day; a weekend outing to the river with the kids on their bikes or in their strollers; easily taking a beloved senior in their wheelchair to enjoy the gondola ride and to lunch in the river valley; a new adventure exploring Rossdale; a school trip with Indigenous elders; an opportunity to experience immersive Indigenous tourism experiences that advance cultural awareness and the cause of reconciliation; a trip to Kinsmen with your running group; a 6 minute trip from Strathcona or downtown to the ballpark to support the Edmonton Riverhawks; a community fan experience to an Oilers game and so much more. We want to create experiences that last a lifetime — establishing Edmonton as a city that would come to mind when asked what your favourite city is.  

 

The gondola will offer a world-class, one-of-a-kind outdoor experience — it’s a unique project and the first of its kind in North America. It provides a year-round visitor experience that will be unique to every season and bridges a crucial connectivity gap. These aspects elevate the project and will attract sports competitions, conventions and concert tours. The gondola will help boost Edmonton as a city of consideration for investment and events and will act as a defining feature for years to come.   

 

The gondola project will make Edmonton a place where people want to live, work, visit, play and experience. The gondola will amplify Edmonton’s essence and spark, bringing in new opportunities and connecting the community like never before.  
 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2021

More than just a gondola:

a space to gather and connect

 

A new airborne river crossing will create a community hub for visitors from near and far

 

Edmonton, AB, November 9, 2021— In an effort to give visitors and Edmontonians alike a new way to experience the city, Prairie Sky Gondola is now officially in development. Having a unique fixture like this in the city will place Edmonton among cities like Barcelona, which has already embraced cable car culture. The picturesque gondola system will not only carry passengers across the river but become a hub of activity for the community. The power plant station alone will not only house a connection to Edmonton’s most beautiful views, but also a casual and fine dining restaurant, a café and a wedding and community event space. This station is designed to share the Indigenous story and will contribute to the city’s goal of reconciliation. 

 

“The idea for a gondola in Edmonton came from the community — The Edmonton Project,” explains Prairie Sky Gondola CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson. “As we have evolved from those humble beginnings, what might surprise people, is that although this has been seen by the Edmonton community as a transportation project – it’s really not. We aren’t in the transportation business, we’re in the experience business.”

 

An urban gondola is a ropeway system constructed to transport passengers within a city and create a new way to experience the landscape. Prairie Sky Gondola is a direct connection between Downtown, West Rossdale and Old Strathcona and will attract adventurous Edmontonians and visitors to experience the quality food, drinks and educational experiences that each station has to offer. The project aims to give Edmontonians and visitors a unique way to take in and share the Edmonton experience with family, friends and visitors. 

 

Prairie Sky Gondola’s ridership projections have been validated by Steer Group, a globally renowned consulting firm. Steer has confirmed that with the lack of competition from other local attractions and the upside with potential ridership, the urban gondola is a commercially viable project. Funded entirely privately, the urban gondola plans to be up and running for the first full year of operations in 2025. 

 

“The Prairie Sky Gondola project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our city to cement itself as one of North America’s most livable, fun, and imaginative cities,” says Puneeta McBryan, the Executive Director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association. “Economically, the gondola will bring tremendous value for Edmonton in the global competition for young talent and for our tourism and hospitality sector to flourish and reach its full potential.”
 

CEO, Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson is available for interviews upon request. 

 

About Prairie Sky Gondola

The urban gondola was born from The Edmonton Project — a city-wide brainstorming competition. An independent panel of judges chose the winner, and the business community pledged to move forward with whichever idea won. The urban gondola won The Edmonton Project in March 2018. 

 

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact: 

 

Name: Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson

Title: CEO, Prairie Sky Gondola

Phone: 780-722-8729

Email: hello@prairieskygondola.com