Designer Heinz Staffler and architect Herman Cabrera’s longtime plan of building a cable car that takes passengers from Sugar King Park in Garapan to the apex of Mount Tapochau in less than 10 minutes may finally get off the ground, Gov. Eloy S. Inos said yesterday.
If this plan materializes, cable car may well become one of the must-see attractions on Saipan.
Cable car is a transportation system that typically travels up and down a mountain in which cabins are suspended on a continuous moving cable driven by a motor at one end of the route.
“It looks like it’s a very good project. I think financing is pretty much ready,” the governor said, adding that “access” remains the biggest issue at this point.
He said these include affected private property along the way—“on both the land surface and up on the aerial space so we need to address that.”
Inos said the alternative would be to find another spot for the cable car if the Sugar King Park-Mount Tapochau access won’t be obtained. Some of the property owners, he said, may have already passed away and dealing with estates or probate may complicate the project.
He said an alternative could be the Banzai Cliff-Suicide Cliff area in Marpi, although there have been preliminary concerns about strong winds in the area.
The governor also said eminent domain or the government’s authority to take private property if necessary is always an option.
When asked whether Bridge Capital LLC may be involved in the project, the governor didn’t deny this.
Allen M. Perez, chief asset manager of Bridge Capital LLC, confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that Cabrera and Staffler did approach Bridge Capital, requesting financing for a cable car line running from Sugar King Park in Garapan to Mount Tapochau.
Perez said Bridge Capital is “interested in the project,” which is still in the beginning stage. But he said he couldn’t say what, if any, is Bridge Capital’s actual participation in the project at this time.
He said Bridge Capital believes a cable car would serve as another tourist attraction on the island.
Bridge Capital LLC is an international investment banking and asset management company headquartered on Saipan.
The governor also believes in the cable car’s potential to become a tourist attraction.
Inos said Staffler first talked to him about a cable car plan “five or six years ago,” and the concept and design has remained the same for years.
Staffler has built more than 60 residential homes, apartment buildings, a brewery, restaurants and a host of other construction projects in a span of more than 30 years on Saipan. He envisioned a cable car project on Saipan, getting inspiration from his great-grandfather Josef Staffler who, on June 29, 1908, invented and built the world’s first passenger cable car in the Austrian/Italian Alps. Josef Staffler, an innkeeper from Bolzano, ingeniously saw a great chance for tourism.
Meanwhile, there have also been interests from other investors to develop a zip line on Saipan, similar to the one in Guam.
Inos said while he is not aware of this other plan, he said he “would sit down and talk to proponents, developers and see what they have in mind, how we can help, how we can put things together, and make it work. We’re open.”
The CNMI expects that the increases in tourist arrivals will continue next year and beyond, making it critical that the islands develop new tourist attractions.