Photo: Architectural rendering of new Gondola Building from Winter Park Planning Commission packet.

At the May 22 Planning Commission meeting, CA Lane of Winter Park Resort and Dan Orecchio with DAO Architecture presented plans for the new building to be constructed at the top of the new Gondola, presented as the Zephyr Express. The new 10-passenger gondola will increase uphill capacity by 1,000 riders per hour and will only take 5 minutes to get to the top from the base.

The new building at the top will consist of a terminal and plaza for offloading and will have 3 floors. The basement level will house the electrical and IT systems, provide storage for evacuation and maintenance equipment, along with a small restroom. There will be 2 means of egress and an overhead door for deliveries.  There will also be an external generator power supply set separate from the building on the south side for use when power is lost.

The main level includes the operator cabin, which will be set about two feet higher than the rest of the main level. The remainder of the main level will be utilized to wash the Gondola cars, pulled into the building, up to three cars at a time, and, also a sheave rebuild area for Lift Maintenance use.

The mezzanine level will accommodate lift grip rebuild, for use on chairs from across the mountain. Special use of black lights will allow testing of grips for any needed repairs. This will also provide workspace for Lift Maintenance staff.

The exterior lighting will be Nightime Friendly-rated, whch exceeds town code for dark sky compliance, and, the materials will be simple painted concrete, aluminum storefront windows on the main level and hardie board siding in three colors. In summer, a ramp will be placed on the plaza for ADA-compliance, since winter grooming prevents construction of a permanent ramp.

The base building will remain intact, but will be modified to accommodate boilers for snowmelt and an IT room. It was noted that the color palette for the top building does not match the bottom building, and the Commissioners suggested painting the base building to match the top for consistency. The Resort agreed to look at that when the building next needs to be painted.

Planning Commission members talked through the design with Lane and Orecchio. Several expressed disappointment with the plain design of the building and suggested placement of faux windows, for improved visual impact. Orecchio stated the goal was to maintain “truth in architecture” and they had never considered windows during the planning phase. They’re planning to use every square inch of space in the building and the windows are not needed because adequate, natural ventilation is already incorporated in the design. The terminal and plaza have been designed to move guests off the platform and on to their next destination and was not designed for visitors.

Town Planner, Mara Owen, stated that staff recommended aproval, contingent upon Forest Service approval, and added plans for landscaping and revegetation, clarifed no trash enclosure, gates or fences would be placed, and drainage and wastewater plans were approved. The Planning Commission approved the plans, with conditions, on a vote of 4 to 1, with Commissioner George Stevens dissenting.