Efforts to renovate the dilapidated summit house on Pikes Peak are moving at a glacial pace, but managers say they are finally moving, and construction on a new summit house could begin by 2015 or 2016.
"That's our best-case scenario and we're optimistic it can happen," said Sandy Elliott, a senior analyst for the city. "But there are a number of steps we must go through first."
Pikes Peak has been topped by a shelter and donut shop for more than 120 years. The current summit house is a squat, plain structure built in 1964. It has almost no windows despite its 360-degree views. The ceilings leak. It is so structurally suspect that in the past it has been condemned. It has been compared to a bomb shelter, and not in a good way.
The city of Colorado Springs, which owns the summit house, and the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the land, have planned for decades to revamp the summit, but lack of money, lawsuits and competing community priorities killed all efforts. Now the lawsuits are done, money is coming in, and the city is in the first planning phase of a makeover.
This is not the first time the city has tried to rehab the peak. In 1995 planners and architects sketched out a formal redesign, adding trails, overlooks, better parking and a grand 35,000 -square-foot structure in the style of an Alpine ski lodge, complete with covered train parking and a cupola at the top.
Then a lawsuit by the Sierra Club in 1999 forced the city to spend money allocated for the summit house to pave the highway, protecting delicate mountain streams from sediment.
The paving was completed in 2011, freeing $500,000 to $800,000 per year in revenue from highway tolls that can be spent on the summit house, according to the city.
The city also has about $1 million for design and construction left from a federal earmark in the 1990s, and can apply for additional money from state tourism programs, Pikes Peak Highway manager Jack Glavan said.
"We're in the process of relooking at the historical documents from the late 1990s to see if they are still current for our needs," said Glavan.
He wants to figure out whether the three buildings on the summit - an Army research station, a Colorado Springs Utilities communications shack, and the summit house - can be put under one roof, reducing the footprint on the mountain while saving money.
"We need to figure out how that will work," said Glavan.
In January, he said, he hopes to submit a proposal to the Forest Service. Then the proposal can start the environmental reviews and public comment period required by federal law. At the same time, the city will hire an architect to design a new summit house. Glavan said a design could be completed in 2014. The next step, he said, could be the biggest: Raising money.