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Oklahoma City wants to steal New York's thunder with new tallest skyscraper in US

January 27, 2024

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Today, the tallest building in the US is One World Trade Center in New York City. But there are plans for a taller skyscraper, the Legends Tower in Oklahoma City.

The tallest building in the U.S. could be built in … Oklahoma City? OK.

California developer Scot Matteson announced plans last month to expand a planned Boardwalk At Bricktown development by adding a 134-story tower standing at 1,750 feet. That would have put the tower slightly shorter than the 1,776-foot-tall Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center in New York City.

But now Matteson has set his sights even higher. His investment and development company last week announced plans to increase the height for the Legends Tower to 1,907 feet tall – a symbolic figure in that Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

If the plan succeeds, the Legends Tower would be the tallest building in the U.S. and the fifth tallest in the world, the developers say. The tallest is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is 2,716 feet tall.

The new tower also would be more than twice as tall as Oklahoma City's current largest building, the 50-story Devon Energy Center. Finished in 2012, it's also the tallest building in the state.

Developer says building would be 'an iconic destination'

Pointing to a period of growth, Matteson said in a statement that Oklahoma City is "well-positioned to support large-scale projects like the one envisioned for Bricktown.”

“We believe that this development will be an iconic destination for the city, further driving the expansion and diversification of the growing economy, drawing in investment, new businesses, and jobs," he said. "It’s a dynamic environment and we hope to see The Boardwalk at Bricktown stand as the pride of Oklahoma City.”

The project would bring Las Vegas-style glitz to an already-vibrant Lower Bricktown area near the Oklahoma River in downtown Oklahoma City. It covers more than 3 acres and is planned to host more than 2 million square feet of residential, retail and entertainment development, including two Hyatt hotels, condos, apartments, stores and restaurants.

The development will also have a lagoon and boardwalk. Also coming to the area, a new arena for the NBA franchise Oklahoma Thunder, which is expected to cost at least $900 million.

Work on the first three 345-foot towers is scheduled to begin this year; the Legends Tower would be built after those are completed.

"The top floors of the supertall tower will consist of a public observatory, restaurant and bar where visitors will be able to enjoy the sweeping city views," the developers say.

Some doubt the mega tower will stand

Can Oklahoma City swing this? There are some doubters.

When the announcement was made, World-Architects asked: "Why is a such a tall tower being built in Oklahoma City (OKC)? And will it actually happen?"

As we await the developers' request for a zoning variance or rezoning, "it remains to be seen if the tallest tower in the U.S. being built in Oklahoma is just a publicity stunt, or if the team will be able to follow through on their dream," wrote World-Architects, which describes itself as "a network of selected contemporary architects and building professionals."

Construction site The B1M pronounced: "No offence to Oklahoma City but it doesn't exactly have the hyper-dense urban dynamic known for producing supertall skyscrapers."

Developers say Oklahoma City needs more residential and entertainment options, but there are concerns about the prevalence of tornadoes in the region.

Oklahoma City is the 18th largest city in the U.S. with 702,837 people estimated in 2024, growing 0.73% annually, according to World Population Review, based on U.S. Census estimates.

The developers need to get the project area rezoned for a taller building because its current maximum allowed height is 300 feet, according to the Oklahoma City Free Press, citing comments from city public information officer Kristy Yager.

"They would need to rezone," Yager said, the newspaper reported. "We understand the applicant’s representative is preparing a new SPUD (simple planned unit development) application, which would go to Planning Commission for a recommendation and City Council for a final decision.”

Optimism in Oklahoma City

Even though the project is far from a done deal, local support is there. The Oklahoma City Council approved a record $200 million in tax increment financing to be paid after the first two apartment towers are built. 

"The Boardwalk at Bricktown and associated developments look exciting for Oklahoma City, and really the whole state, but we know they have a long way to go to get the project off the ground," Renee Hoover-Payton, president of the Oklahoma Association of Realtors, told USA TODAY in a statement. "That the development has nearly 2,000 urban, residential housing units associated with it is a bonus for our capital city, and (the association recognizes) the great potential of adding to Oklahoma City's urban housing mix."

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