Seattle Great Wheel Owners Want To Build A Downtown Gondola

Mar 5, 2014

Kyle Griffith’s family owns the Great Wheel on Pier 57. The Griffiths have been in business on the Seattle waterfront since the 1960s.

Now the family is hoping to build a gondola that would run along Union Street from the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to the waterfront with a stop at Pike Place Market.

Right now the area near Pier 57 is a maze of construction because of the tunnel project. It’s harder to park, and Griffith said business is down. “We’re all feeling the negative impacts of a major construction project right outside our front door, and the spirit of the gondola project is to help mitigate and help overcome the construction disruption in the near term,” Griffith said.

In the long term Griffith foresees millions of tourists taking the five minute ride down Union.

He said they hope to start building as soon as the central portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is taken down.

The route of the proposed gondola.
The route of the proposed gondola.
Credit Great Western Pacific

Carole Williams and her neighbor live along the proposed gondola route. This is not the view she bought into when she purchased her downtown property.

Williams said about 30 of the units in her building will have a bird's-eye view of the cars. “I will be on the sixth floor looking out and waving at tourists while I’m eating in the dining room, while I’m in the living room. It’s 10 feet away from me,” Williams said.

Griffith said they plan to work with gondola neighbors to help alleviate their concerns. It’s just one of many hurdles the backers of the gondola will have to clear before breaking ground.

The gondola would be paid for with private money but would run along the public right-of-way.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials declined to comment since they haven't received or reviewed a formal gondola permit application from the Griffiths.

Transportation Committee chairman Tom Rasmussen on the Seattle City Council called the idea “intriguing and very complicated.”