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City One Step Closer to Remodeling Pikes Peak Summit House

Colorado Springs has taken the first major step in updating the dilapidated Summit Visitors Center on the top of America's most well-known mountain, Pikes Peak. The project has been in the works for several years now, and on Monday officials announced they are actively accepting proposals from architectural firms for a summit complex that would include a visitors center plus three other buildings. Insiders say the project could take as long as five years and is expected to cost about $20 million. The project will be a joint effort involving Colorado Springs Utilities, the US Forest Service and the U.S. National Park Service National Historic Landmarks Program.

The current summit house was built in 1964. The structure has very few windows, has leaky ceilings and the foundation is failing. The summit is also littered with various metal structures built by the US Army, which has also committed $3.5 million to revamp its structures and limit the eyesore they cause. Previous plans to remodel the summit house have stalled for a variety of reasons, but the goal of a modernized visitor's center at the site where "America the Beautiful" was written has been kept alive by a group called Advocates for the Pikes Peak Summit House. The group has also lobbied for exhibits that tell the rich history of the mountain, and planners would also like to see an educational experience developed for Pikes Peak visitors.

When officials pick the winning plan for a new summit house,the firm will have 18 months to finalize the design. Officials are adamant that the public has some say, however, so the winning firm will be required to hold a series of public meetings for that purpose. The project will be done is several phases, the first of which will involve renovations to the Army's high altitude biomedical research lab beginning in the summer or fall of 2016. Work on the visitors center would begin in 2017, with the entire project scheduled to be complete before the end of 2020.

It is estimated that more than 600,000 people visit the summit of Pikes Peak each year, whether by hiking trail, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway or via the Pikes Peak Highway.

February 3, 2015

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