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Design selected for Pikes Peak Summit House will let the views take center stage

January 26, 2016 Updated: January 27, 2016 at 2:21 pm
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A months-long effort to design a new Pikes Peak Summit House has resulted in a winning candidate: A low-slung, glass-encased complex that will be partially tucked into the mountain, keeping the focus squarely on the surrounding vistas.

"We want it to be simple and just fade away," said Alan Reed of GWWO Inc./Architects, which created the joint design with RTA Architects.

Pikes Peak granite and beetle-kill pine will round out design touches, six overlooks will emphasize different views from 14,115 feet, and solar panels will provide up to 40 percent of the energy requirements, designers said.

The 26,000-square-foot complex - actually a series of four buildings - will occupy a southeastern corner of the summit, with a primary orientation toward the southeast.

It will be mostly one story, with a raised upper level overlooking the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and providing a "Holy Cow" moment for arriving visitors, in Reed's words.

The city announced the winning candidate - a variation on Option No. 1 of the four alternatives presented this summer - during a public meeting Tuesday evening that drew a standing-room crowd to the Penrose House in Colorado Springs.

- PHOTOS: See renderings of the new summit house.

The winning design was tweaked after public input, including an online survey that asked respondents to rank their design priorities.

The building's interior is meant to provide an "intuitive experience" - with a clear path to bathrooms without requiring visitors to "push through the crowd" in the gift shop, as at the current facility, said Stuart Coppedge of RTA Architects.

Interpretive stations will offer information about the mountain's importance to the region and its history, and a small trail network will surround the complex.

Maintaining intact tundra and restoring lost tundra will be long-term focus, Coppedge says.

New to the summit complex will be an emergency shelter for stranded hikers. Although details have yet to be worked out, the goal is to provide shelter, water and a means to summon help without encouraging camping on the summit.

Among those who praised the proposed complex was Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who noted the current Summit House, built in the 1960s and maligned for its lack of windows, has "outlived (its) useful life."

"It's a great place to get a doughnut, but other than that, it leaves a lot to be desired," Suthers said to laughter from the crowd.

Getting a more desirable Summit House in place will take a significant fundraising effort, the mayor said.

The proposed summit complex is expected to cost between $20 and $30 million. The city expects to provide $10 million from a mix of Pikes Peak Highway enterprise fund and revenue bonds. It will look to donors to furnish the rest.

The city also announced Tuesday that G.E. Johnson Construction Co. has been selected as the general contractor. Pikes Peak Highway Manager Jack Glavan said the company was expected to help the city revise its cost estimates in the weeks and months ahead.

Construction is slated to begin in 2017 - but not before the design is approved by the Forest Service, which has jurisdiction over the peak.

To the degree possible, builders will prefabricate portions of the complex in Colorado Springs and transport it by truck it to the summit, minimizing labor on the peak, Glavan said.

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Contact Lance Benzel: 636-0366

Twitter: @lancebenzel

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