Developers want to build America39s tallest skyscraper in an unusual

Developers want to build America's tallest skyscraper in an unusual city

New York CNN –

A group of developers wants to build America's tallest building in an unlikely location: Oklahoma City.

The proposed location for the 1,907-foot-tall “Legends Tower” is certainly unconventional. The skyscraper would be more than twice as tall as Oklahoma City's current tallest building and the fifth tallest building in the world.

The ten tallest buildings in the United States are in New York and Chicago, the first and third largest cities in the country, respectively. Oklahoma City is the 20th largest city in America with around 700,000 residents.

Developers note that Oklahoma City is expanding, and they say the city can support such a project. It grew by almost 2% between 2020 and 2022. Between 2010 and 2020, Oklahoma City was one of 14 U.S. cities to add more than 100,000 people.

The plan serves as an acknowledgment of a growing city. But the proposal could be doomed from the start. Oklahoma City's mayor has been non-committal about the plan, and a city economist dismissed the skyscraper as an “air force.”

The developers, led by real estate investment firm Matteson Capital and architectural firm AO, announced plans this week to build the skyscraper in Oklahoma City as part of a new mixed-use development project in the city with retail stores, restaurants and other attractions.

Another reason why the development is surprising: The work-from-home revolution since the pandemic has weakened demand for office space. There is currently more vacant office space in the United States than at any time since 1979. Many of America's tallest buildings, such as the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center in New York and the 1,729-foot-tall Willis Tower in Chicago, are office buildings.

So instead of offices, the proposed Oklahoma City tower would include a Hyatt hotel with hundreds of rooms, about 1,750 apartments and 110,000 square feet for retail and restaurants.

Courtesy of AO

The “Legends Tower” would be part of a new development project.

In Bricktown, the district where the massive development project and skyscraper is planned, developers say there is demand for new sports and entertainment options. Voters recently approved a new arena for the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder in the area, and plans for a new soccer stadium are in the works.

“Oklahoma City is committed to becoming a major metropolitan region. “The city has invested in the infrastructure surrounding the project,” Scot Matteson, CEO of Matteson Capital, said in a statement to CNN.

Developers need approval from Oklahoma City to build the tower.

Asked whether he supported the tower, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said in an email to CNN: “It is my observation that private developers often announce plans, and some of those plans are implemented and some are not.” I don’t have a strong opinion and look forward to following their efforts.”

The bigger obstacle may be financing the skyscraper, said Stefan Al, architect and author of “Supertall: How the World's Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping Our Cities and Our Lives.”

“I’m not sure the construction cost premiums are worth it,” he said. The higher the skyscraper, the more expensive it becomes due to the additional supporting structures for the building.

“Is there a market to pay these costs?” Al said, adding it was “a tough sell for investors.”

The entire development project will cost an estimated $1.6 billion, including $770 million for the tower, Matteson said. Funding for the project will come from multiple sources, he said, including $200 million in city-approved grants. The company is also seeking additional state and federal funding.

But the tower would be an “unprecedented outlier” in Oklahoma City, said Jason Barr, an economics professor at Rutgers University-Newark who studies the economics of skyscrapers and is the author of “Cities in the Sky: The Quest for the World's Tallest.” Skyscraper.”

The height of a city's tallest building correlates strongly with the height of its second-tallest building, he said, and the proposed Oklahoma City Tower would be more than twice as tall as the city's current tallest building, the Devon Energy Center office building.

A city's population is also a strong indicator of how tall the tallest building will be.

Big cities like New York can have taller buildings because they have more people and more businesses, he said. But the Oklahoma Tower struck Barr as “far too tall for the city’s population.” New York's population is about twelve times larger than Oklahoma City's, and Chicago's is four times larger.

“The smaller the city, the harder it is to fill all that extra space at a price that’s worth it.”

Steve Agee, an economist at Oklahoma City University, said the idea is “a pie in the sky,” especially since interest rates are at their highest in 23 years, which would make financing the building difficult.

“I don’t think the economy is working in their favor,” he said. “I can’t imagine Oklahoma City being ready for a building like this.”

CNN's Andy Rose contributed to this article.