Peak Innovation Center construction delayed, students will still participate in programs Innovation

While the Peak Innovation Center may not be opening its doors in August as planned, students will still be able to complete the programs intended.

Programs will instead take place at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith’s Western Arkansas Technical Center, said Christina Williams, coordinator of public information for the Fort Smith Public School district. The Peak Innovation Center was scheduled to be completed April 29.

The Fort Smith Board of Education recently learned the center will not open on Aug. 16 as planned for the fall semester, but will now open at the start of the spring semester in January 2022.

Construction behind schedule

Construction on Peak started in January 2020 with $13,724,046 allocated from the 2018 millage funds. In 2018, the millage rate was raised from 36.5 mills to 42.058 mills to pay for school district improvements.

Costs for the Peak Innovation Center are trending higher than expected because of unforeseen issues, including a roof that needs to be repaired on the unfinished part of the building, Williams added. There has been $3,780,525 in additional funding allocated for construction, which brings the total allocated construction funding to $17,504,571.

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Hoar Project Management is still processing the “guaranteed maximum price” to understand the total cost of the project for its completion, Williams said.

Permitting requests and the upcoming Highway 255 expansion directly in front of Peak also contributed to the delays, Ditto said.

Ditto said his team received the final maximum price on June 26 and they will soon be sitting down and going through it.

“We’re excited that we have the opportunity for students to begin classes this fall at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith as planned,” said Gary Udouj, director of career education and district innovation for the district.

Udouj said over 500 students from the surrounding area have applied to take classes at the Western Arkansas Technical Center program this year. Once the Peak Innovation Center is completed students will either start going to the campus or stay at UAFS depending on the program they are in.

There will also be students starting internships and apprenticeships in the community this fall, Udouj said.

Original discussions included the building to be partially occupied by students while the construction is completed, said Scott Ditto of Hoar Program Management. Ditto is the project manager for the Peak Innovation Center.

“At this point it’s been decided that we’re not going to probably do that,” Ditto said. “We’re going to move forward and try to get the entire project done before we occupy the building.”

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Peak’s perks

When completed, the Peak Innovation Center will be accessible to about 43,000 students from 22 regional school districts. The four distinct programs will focus on advanced manufacturing, information technology, healthcare sciences and the arts. Students in 11th and 12th grades that are enrolled in the programs will earn technical concurrent credit from the Western Arkansas Technical Center at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

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“Through this programming and industry exposure, students will receive a direct connection to career opportunities in the region,” Williams said. “Students who successfully complete these courses will have the ability to earn a competitive salary upon high school graduation and are better prepared to thrive in college.” 

Project Funding Breakdown

• Millage Funds- $13,724,046

• EDA Grant- $1,400,000

• Governor Hutchinson & Office Skill of Development- $2,100,000

•  ABB- $1,000,000

• ArcBest- $1,000,000

• ARDOT- $180,525

• Gene Haas Foundation $1,000,000

• Baptist Health/Mercy- $1,000,000

•Wingate- $750,000

•Total- $22,154,571

•Allocated for construction- $17,504,571

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