A symbolic, controlled blast on the 14,115 foot summit of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain this week signaled the start of three years of construction of a new $50 million, 38,000 square foot Pikes Peak Summit Complex. The complex is anticipated to be complete by the fall of 2020, weather dependent.
The project includes a new U.S. Army High-Altitude Research Laboratory and a new Summit Visitor Center. The existing Summit House, constructed in 1963, remains fully operational to the more than 600,000 million visitors a year throughout the construction process.
The United States Forest Service (USFS) owns the land (the Pike National Forest) on which the Pikes Peak Highway and the Summit House (visitor center) are built, while the City of Colorado Springs operates and maintains these facilities under a special use permit with the USFS. In all, at the summit of Pikes Peak there are currently a municipal utility facility and three facilities serving federal and local agencies, including:
- The Summit House visitor center and Plant Building, operated as a City Enterprise by Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain (PPAM)
- The Maher Memorial High-Altitude Research Laboratory (HARL), operated by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM)
- The Pikes Peak Multi-User Communication Facility, operated by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU)
Collaboration For New Facilities At Pikes Peak
“As a lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, and as its proud mayor, I can’t express enough how excited I am about this project,” said Colorado Springs Mayor, John Suthers. “I am particularly proud of the collaboration between the major stakeholders to get this project underway. I am confident the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex will provide a worthy crown for the popular destination, inspiring visitors from all corners of the world and of all ages and abilities for generations to come.”
The project is a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Office, tribal representatives, and the summit’s five major permit holders: City of Colorado Springs; Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain; The Broadmoor’s Pikes Peak Cog Railway; U.S. Army High-Altitude Research Laboratory; and Colorado Springs Utilities. The final step before breaking ground — environmental assessment issued by the U.S. Forest Service — was finished May 3, 2018 when the project received a “Finding of No Significant Impact.”
The new Summit Visitor Center, being constructed by contractor GE Johnson, will offer sweeping views and feature digitally interactive displays focused on the history, significance, and geology of Pikes Peak. Interpretive outdoor exhibits will also be built along the accessible, elevated pathway, designed to help protect the summit’s fragile tundra. Other upgrades include an improved kitchen, dining facilities, retail space, and expanded restroom facilities.
RTA Architects of Colorado Springs and GWWO Architects of Baltimore, a nationally-recognized expert in designing national park visitor centers, partnered on the design, which aims to achieve LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and meet the latest ADA standards. Additional design input was submitted by hundreds of Colorado Springs residents from 2015-2017. The design also strives to achieve “The Living Building Challenge” (LBC), a two-year certification process, as a highly sustainable, zero-energy building. Sustainable design aspects include: energy, materials, resilience, site ecology, site water, and water and wastewater. Currently, no other federal buildings are LBC certified. (Image below shows project progress toward LEED certification and Living Building Challenge (LBC))
The estimated $50 million project is funded in part by reserves from Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain, an enterprise of the city that generates revenue through toll fees and concession sales; revenue bonds taken by Pikes Peak; and public and private donations.