Work could begin early next year on the renovation and upgrading of one of the most stunning examples of modernist architecture in the West.
The United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs was completed in 1962 and has, for more than 5 decades now, inspired tens of millions of worshippers and visitors who have thrilled to its clean-cut and inspiring look.
“We are close to having 800,000 people a year who enter the chapel, including many international visitors as well,” says Pete Peterson, the chapel’s public relations director.
One of the reasons for that number is that the chapel is a house of worship for people of all faiths, a concept that was particularly unique at the time of its construction.
The other reason is due to the simple beauty of the chapel itself.
With seventeen triangular spires shooting into the sky, on top of a 150-foot tall triangular building, the chapel is by anyone’s measure, a thing to behold.
Designed by architect Walter Netsch, Jr., the chapel, according to the website Atlas Obscura, represents an “iconic fusing of technology, worship, and aesthetically pleasing futuristic architecture.”
In his book On the Wings of Modernism, author Robert Allen Nauman notes: “Essentially rectangular, the chapel has exterior walls constructed of precast concrete panels with stained glass inserts that provide illumination.”
Upon the chapel’s completion in 1962, Time magazine made note of its “gentle arches and stonework,” which it said “suggests the architecture and masonry of the Romanesque cathedral.”
Now the planned renovation of the building will center on getting rid of the structure’s aluminum exterior and applying flexible plastic seals to make the chapel watertight.
“You have to go back to the original construction of the chapel to understand what its problem today is,” says Dwayne Boyle, resident architect with the Air Force Academy.
“The aluminum on the building now was basically meant to be rainscreen, so that water would shed off it.”
“But water did end up getting through the joints,” he continues.
That water was then supposed to be intercepted by internal flashings and carried away from the structure.
However, continues Boyle, the internal flashings were “value engineered out in favor of using 32 miles of caulking on the building, and that has never really held up very well.”
End result: the chapel has on and off through the years had water issues, creating what Boyle calls “a constant maintenance problem of basically resealing the building.”
Because the chapel renovation will put a premium on precision, various aspects of the project are almost mind-numbing in their detail. A good example is the roughly 24,000 individual stained glass tiles that will be removed and cleaned.
Those stained glass tiles will then be catalogued and numbered, before eventually being put back into their original positions.
“All of the pews will also be taken out, and there are 76 of them,” says Patterson. “They will initially be stored, and then finally fully restored and put back in place.”
The chapel’s massive pipe organ, to the rear of the chancel, will also be removed. This is an instrument with 61 stops, 67 registers, and 4,286 pipes. Some of the pipes are 32 feet in height, while others have the dimension of a pencil.
“Just as with the pews, the organ will be fully restored and then returned to its original place before the new chapel is opened,” says Patterson.
While the renovation work, with a price tag starting at $58 million, necessarily emphasizes needed exterior work, what has always inspired worshippers and visitors the most is the chapel’s breath-taking interior.
“Once inside the chapel, you will stop in your tracks,” Dawn Wilson, a writer and photographer, noted two years ago in the Coloradoan newspaper.
“The colors are vivid and breathtaking,” continued Wilson. “The glow of the light from the stained glass windows illuminates the entire chapels in shades of purple, blue, and pink.”
“I have engaged with the public every single day for the last eleven years and have seen the reactions from senior citizens all the way down to kids who walk into the chapel for the first time,” says Patterson.
“When you watch a 9 year-old boy’s face light up and his jaw drop, you know the architect did something special.”
Work on the chapel renovation, once it’s launched next year, is expected to take around 4 years to complete.
By Garry Boulard
A one-time family farm located just blocks from the Paseo del Bosque Trail running along the banks of the Rio Grande may be the site of an unusual cluster house development.
The Albuquerque-based Rio Grande Huerta LLC, has announced that it wants to build some 30 homes on what is a 3.7-acre piece of land at the dead end of Gonzales Road.
The unusual project, according to Bernalillo County documents, would see the construction of an eco-village, incorporating “net zero energy use, zero-waste strategies, and maximizing water conservation.”
As proposed, the project will include homes ranging in size from studio casitas to four-bedroom townhouses, with prices beginning at $130,000.
A common house would be built along international energy efficiency design standards.
The plan also calls for more than half of the land in question to remain undeveloped open space that can be used for agricultural purposes.
The project, which has been the subject of several community meetings, has sparked opposition from neighbors worried about traffic congestion and the environmental impact on the nearby Bosque.
Rio Grande Huerta describes itself as a not for profit development corporation made up of “socially and environmentally concerned Albuquerque residents” who have pooled their money to build a multi-family, mixed-income community.
The group’s request for a special use permit will go before the Bernalillo County Planning Commission in January.
By Garry Boulard
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules which it says will provide for greater clarity regarding federal water site permitting policy.
Announced jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the rules are intended to reduce regulatory delays for certain construction projects built near defined federal waters.
EPA Acting Director Andrew Wheeler, in a statement, said the new rules will define the “difference between federal protected waterways and state protected waterways.”
Continued Wheeler: “Our simpler and clearer definition would help landowners understand whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.”
In essence, the new rules will reduce the number of federally regulated waterways that to date have been under the protection of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
In so doing, the EPA is altering the definition of what is regarded as “Waters of the United States,” removing wetlands unconnected to larger waterways and streams that usually flow only after rains.
The rule change will allow for more mining and oil drilling in those areas.
Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, said the new rules will replace mandates “that were likely unlawful and created significant confusion about which waters were covered by whom.”
Craig Cox, the senior vice-president for agriculture and natural resources with the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, criticized the new rules, saying that by allowing “industry to dump pollutants into these water sources,” they will allow “more contamination challenges for utilities and dirtier water for their customers.”
While lakes and ponds will remain federally protected waters, along with traditional navigable waters and their tributaries, the new rules remove groundwater, many ditches, storm water control features, and waste treatment systems from the “Waters of the United States” classification.
By Garry Boulard
The Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail Resorts Incorporated has announced expansive plans to upgrade a handful of its ski resorts in Colorado and several other states.
The company, with a network of 18 ski resorts nationally, will spend up to $180 million on facility improvements and new energy-efficient snowmaking technology.
“We’re continuing to raise the bar for skiers and riders with meaningful, impactful improvements that will provide consistent, reliable and seamless experiences all season long,” Robert Katz, the chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, said in a statement announcing the upgrades.
Planned work includes a renovation of a children’s ski school at the company’s Beaver Creek resort; a new guest service facility at the Breckinridge resort; and snowmaking system upgrades at the Vail Mountain, Keystone, and Beaver Creek resorts.
All of the work must first secure the approval of the U.S. Forest Service.
Founded in 1997, Vail Resorts currently has five resorts in north central and northwestern Colorado.
The company has enjoyed revenue near the $380 million mark this year.
According to plans, all of the Vail Resort site and facility upgrades will be completed before the pre-Thanksgiving 2019 season.
By Garry Boulard
The Tucson International Airport has received a green light from Washington for a massive runway improvement project.
The $218 million facility upgrade will see the construction of a full-length parallel runway replacing a shorter current general aviation runway.
What is being called the largest such airfield project undertaken in the history of the airport will additionally include the construction of new taxiways.
The project, which has been eight years in the making, has now received the approval of both the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the U.S. Air Force.
As part of the project, just under 60 acres of land owned by the Air Force will be transferred to the Tucson Airport Authority to provided needed space for the parallel runway safe area.
At the same time, the Tucson Airport Authority will be handing over 160 acres to the Air force with the goal of providing a safety buffer for the Raytheon Missile Systems plant and office complex located on the south side of the airport.
Although the Tucson airport, spanning nearly 8,000 acres, traces its roots to 1919, it entered the modern age in 1963 with the construction of a new terminal.
Today it has three operating runways and three helipads.
If all goes according to plan, design work on the runway expansion effort will begin early next year, with actual construction starting sometime in late 2020.
The new full-length parallel runway is expected to become operational by no later than early 2023.
Located around eight miles to the south of downtown Tucson, the Tucson International Airport is the second largest airport in growing Arizona, handling up to four million passengers a year.
By Garry Boulard
With only a portion of a proposed border wall completed between the U.S. and Mexico, how much more of that construction will secure federal funding remains an open question.
In a lively exchange in the White House, President Trump told House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrat Leader Charles Schumer that he would risk a government shut-down in order to get the money needed for the wall’s continued construction.
“I am proud to shut the government down for border security, Chuck,” Trump at one point told Schumer. “I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
A stopgap spending bill providing some $5 billion for the border wall project may be introduced in the House of Representatives. The Democrat leadership has called for $1.3 billion in border wall spending.
If Congress and the White House are unable to agree on a spending plan, around a quarter of the federal government’s $1.2 trillion operating budget would be held up, resulting in the closure of government offices and some services across the country.
Trump has said that he wants the $5 billion to expand border wall work already underway.
That work includes a 20-mile replacement wall being built in Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
Last month it was announced that a 32-mile pedestrian replacement wall, costing $324 million, would go up on the Arizona/Mexico border.
Meanwhile, a $145 million levee wall system in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is set to see construction beginning in February.
By Garry Boulard
A project that will see the construction of 139 apartment units in Santa Fe has won the approval of the city’s Planning Commission.
What is being called the Capitol Flats Apartments will go up near the intersection of Cordova Road and Pen Road and will, according to its design, have vehicular and pedestrian access to both of those streets.
Being developed by Peter Aberg, a Dallas developer who has taken on other rental projects in Santa Fe, Capitol Flats will have 90 one-bedroom units, 29 two-bedroom units, and 20 studio apartments.
The project, going up on a 2.3-acre rectangular-shaped site, will also include a fitness center, co-work lounge, rooftop deck, and ground floor courtyard space.
According to county documents, the design of the new complex will somewhat resemble a modern three-story State of New Mexico government office building currently standing on the other side of Cordova.
With the exception of that structure, say the documents, the architecture of the new complex “resembles nothing in the immediate area within adjacent blocks.”
Rents for the Capitol Flats will range between $950 and $1,800 a month. According to the site RentCafe.com., the average rent in Santa Fe today for a one bedroom is $950 a month, and $1,143 for a two-bedroom unit.
By Garry Boulard
An effort is underway to bring back to life an area of Bullhead City, Arizona populated with smaller one-story houses and businesses, as well as a number of vacant lots.
City officials have been meeting with area residents, soliciting ideas for the revival of what is officially called Old Bullhead City.
That section of the current city is where most residents lived during the construction of the nearby Davis Dam in the 1940s and early 1950s.
But in 1984, after the communities of Holiday Shores and Riviera opted to incorporate into one entity with Bullhead, the original neighborhood became known as Old Bullhead.
Now city officials are looking into ways of spurring new commercial development and construction in Old Bullhood. There is talk of new streetscaping, as well as updating zoning laws to allow for new multi-family and single-family construction.
This summer, the Phoenix-based Matrix Design Group published a study looking at Old Bullhead’s potential and concluded that the area would be well served with the construction of a series of pocket parks.
Other suggestions in the study, which was called Old Bullhead City—Visionary Summary Report, recommended that the city adopt an official redevelopment area plan, as well as both alignment and design alternatives for Arizona State Route 95, the main north to south thoroughfare for Old Bullhead.
City officials have said that they plan to solicit more public input on the redevelopment of Old Bullhead before any action is taken.
By Garry Boulard
With the effects of tariff-related supply costs beginning to hit contractors, the Federal Reserve Board says it is seeing a slight decrease in new construction in some regions.
That is one of the takeaways from the board’s recently published Beige Book, otherwise known as the Summary of Commentary of Current Economic Conditions.
That publication is a compilation of soundings of business conditions gathered from all twelve of the Federal Reserve Board’s regional districts, soundings that are taken from interviews with bankers, business owners, and economists, among others.
The most recent findings from the Kansas City district, which includes Colorado and northern New Mexico, shows residential home sales dipping a little between mid-October to late November, and inventories rising. At the same time, commercial real estate activity for the region posted a modest gain.
For the Dallas region, which takes in Texas and southern New Mexico, housing market activity during the same time period was soft due to rains and rising interest rates. Although the overall real estate scene in this region remains positive, there is increased trepidation about a combination of higher construction costs and rising mortgage rates.
Arizona is part of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Board District which, during the six-week reporting period, saw both real estate and construction activity expanding at a solid pace. Residential construction in this region is seeing a shift from single family to multifamily building.
The Beige Book is called that because the cover page of the report is colored beige.
By Garry Boulard
Along a stretch of rural towns that have been subject to arroyo, street, and land flooding from excessive rainfall, a move is on to seek funding for a handful of flood mitigation projects.
Members of the El Paso County Commission are looking for grant support to significantly improve the Fabens Dam, on the north side of Interstate 10 in the town of Fabens.
That facility was built for a 100-year capacity, but according to county records, “will not contain additional capacity for larger storms.”
As proposed, the retention structure would be deepened, while an emergency overflow wall will be built along the top of the dam.
Funding for the project may come through the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program.
As proposed, that program will also fund the expansion of a detention pond at Angel’s Park, just north of the village of Clint; and new or expanded detention ponds in the villages of Tornillo, Doniphan, Clinton, and Horizon.
Altogether, the projects will cost around $9.5 million to complete. If successful in securing the grant funding, El Paso County will provide a roughly 25 percent match of $2.5 million.
By Garry Boulard
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