While the Argo Mill had hoped to have its new gondola open by this summer, it likely won’t open until winter 2019 at the earliest.
The gondola, which will start and end on Argo property but will run over City of Idaho Springs land, will help users access the new Virginia Canyon Mountain Park.
According to City Planner Alan Tiefenbach, the gondola is part of a rezoning application for the park, which includes city land, Argo property and mining claims owned by Mary Jane Loevlie, one of the Argo’s owners.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend approval to the City Council.
The Argo and the city are working on questions about mining interests and title work, thus the council won’t consider the rezoning until June 10 at the earliest.
Tiefenbach clarified that the question of whether there would be a gondola at all would be decided after the June 10 City Council hearing. The public could submit comments about the rezoning application at that time.
If the council approves the application, the entire property will be rezoned as planned development, Tiefenbach explained.
While the rezoning would include where the gondola could be built and its height restrictions, Tiefenbach said the Argo also must submit a final development plan for other aspects of it, such as design, color and alignment.
The final development plan also requires a public hearing process, going through the Planning Commission and City Council, just as a rezoning application does.
Argo co-owner Bob Bowland said he and his fellow owners are hoping to have the gondola open by the end of the year, but that timeline is very optimistic. He noted that the gondola will be a year-round scenic ride and won’t be season-oriented; thus, it can be opened at any time of the year.
“It’s a matter of funding, engineering and construction,” he said on the timeline for opening.
Right now, Bowland said, the Argo is planning for 17 towers along the gondola’s route, with all the heavy electric equipment at the top. The owners are looking at about 27 cabins that can hold eight people each as a starting point. There also might be separate pods to hold bicycles.
Current designs have about 200 parking spots for gondola riders and trail users at the bottom, east of the mill site, he added.
The gondola will be a part of the Argo’s Phase I of its planned expansion projects, along with putting in light food and beverage and other amenities at the top of the gondola route.
Phase II, he said, will be building the Argo Village residential units on what will become the planned parking east of the mill site. Thus, he said, there will have to be shuttles or other transportation eventually to take visitors to the gondola.
For now, though, he said the city is moving forward with the entire Virginia Canyon Mountain Park application at a deliberate pace and getting a detailed review.