2018 new target year for construction to start on Pikes Peak 'Summit Complex'
A public meeting in October 2016 had held open the chance of breaking ground this summer. However, the project currently lacks both the funding and an environmental assessment (EA) sign-off.
So the project timeline on the Colorado Springs website now shows 2018 for “preliminary construction start,” followed by the caveat, “Schedule subject to change pending completion of the U.S. Forest Service Environmental Assessment and funding considerations.”
On the glass-half-full side, there's optimism that fundraising outside the government realm can cover $15 million of the estimated $50 million cost to build the “Summit Complex,” as the planned facility is now being called. Also, the U.S. Forest Service has not identified any showstoppers in its partially completed EA study.
Presentations on both subjects were part of the latest public meeting, held in early June. The city's intent is to replace Pikes Peak's current Summit House, which is over 50 years old.
Providing the fundraising news was Laura MacDonald of the Benefactor Group, which just completed a feasibility study on that subject under a city contract.
Pointing out that the region has a private-sector charitable-giving rate that's noticeably above the national average, she told about 50 attendees at the Ivywild School center, “I don't see this [raising $15 million] as insurmountable.”
“It's exciting that a feasibility study says the potential is out there,” said Jack Glavan, the manager of Pikes Peak America's Mountain (PPAM), the city enterprise that manages the Pikes Peak Highway and the Summit House under a special use permit from the Forest Service.
No timetable has been presented for how long the fundraising might take. Glavan said the Benefactor group was paid $70,000 for the study and will receive another $845,000 for the actual pursuit of private contributions, which is titled the “Pikes Peak Capital Campaign.”
Of the remaining $35 million needed for construction, up to $25 million will come from PPAM (which has also funded the design effort). That amount will consist of $10 million from PPAM reserves, and up to $15 million from the sale of bonds based on anticipated Pikes Peak Highway fees and concession revenues, Glavan said.
As for the last $10 million, Mayor John Suthers said at the Ivywild meeting that a potential source is the city's tax that targets tourists - the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART). The $10 million could be generated by doubling the LART tax rate from its current 2 percent rate. “We may go to the voters to ask for an increase,” Suthers said.
Glavan said afterward that a decision still needs to be made about how much of the funding needs to be in hand before Summit Complex construction can start. “We will work with the RTA [a design consultant] and GE Johnson [the project contractor] as well as senior management as the EA is being completed, to assess the potential cash flow needed in each phase of the
"However, my recommendation to senior management will be that we have enough funds available to complete the building and necessary support areas before beginning construction.”
Regarding the EA, Jeffrey Hovermale, a Forest Service Lands and Minerals staff officer, outlined at the meeting various steps involved in that process. Asked afterward why it's taking longer than had been expected, he summarized in an e-mail that the effort includes working with the National Park Service and the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office in relation to the summit's status as a National Historic Landmark.
An EA for the project is required under the National Environmental Planning Act.
The current Summit House handles roughly 600,000 visitors annually. Glavan said that during construction the facility will remain open - the new one will be built on another part of the summit - but the Pikes Peak Highway will be closed to cars past the Devil's Playground. From that point, a free shuttle will be provided to the Peak, he said.
Plans for the Summit Complex began taking shape in 2015. At a public meeting in January 2016, the city's two design consultants (RTA and GWWO, Inc./Architects), revealed a low-impact building design with cutting-edge energy savings and amenities such as enhanced interpretive displays, better views from inside, an improved parking lot, outside pedestrian areas and a clearly defined summit marker.
Cost estimates at that time were around $25-$30 million, but after more detailed design work an estimate of $45-50 million emerged at the October 2016 meeting.
In the project, the city is partnering with the Forest Service, Colorado Springs Utilities (whose current facilities on the Peak are separate from the Summit House) and the U.S. Army (which operates a research lab on the Peak).
For more information, the city website is https://parks.coloradosprings.gov/pikes- peak-americas-mountain/page/pikes-peak-summit-complex-project.
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