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New Summit House moves ahead 

On Monday, the city posted a formal request for proposals for architectural and engineering services for a new Pikes Peak Summit House.

City staff, headed by Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director Karen Palus, have been engaged since 2011 in an effort to replace the existing 1965 structure. (Disclosure: I took part in generating project recommendations for Palus in 2012.)

The new plan calls for the consolidation of all activities on the summit into a single building situated near the center of the summit plain. All existing structures, including the Army's high-altitude research facility and a communications building owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, would be razed. A wall that was once part of the 1871 summit house will be stabilized and preserved, as will the historic cog tracks on the summit's eastern edge.

"We hope to narrow things down to two or three finalists by April, and choose our design firm by June," Palus says. She hopes to have the architect and a general contractor selected by the end of summer, with a goal of beginning work in 2016 and finishing in 2018.

All of Pikes Peak above 14,000 feet is a National Historic Site, so the design must conform to federal guidelines and design criteria. The city cannot give preference to local architects, engineers or contractors. And it may be difficult for the project architect to create an "iconic" design, since Park Service design criteria call for buildings in the "American Rustic" tradition.

The project won't be cheap. Palus estimates its total cost at $20 million.

City staff will direct it, advised by a group that will include representatives of the Army, CSU, Aramark (the summit house concessionaire), the Cog Railway, the Park Board, the Forest Service and others. The city has hired an environmental consultant to concentrate on updating environmental studies from the 1990s.

The Highway Enterprise (Pikes Peak America's Mountain) and Aramark will together provide $5 million and issue revenue bonds for $6 million more. The Army will add $2.5 million, the Lodging and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) will provide $250,000 annually for four years, and Colorado Springs Utilities will add $500,000. Much of the funding is dependent upon the assent of the mayor and Council, both before and during construction.

That leaves $5 million, which Palus hopes to raise from private sources, including local individuals, foundations and businesses.

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