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Architecture

A Surprising City Might Be Getting America’s New Tallest Skyscraper

By Julia Hammond
Read time: 4 minutes

The U.S. is no stranger to tall buildings. Chicago, after all, was the home of the world’s first skyscraper in 1885. Over the years, America has been home to the world’s tallest building several times, from New York’s Empire State Building, which held the title from 1931 to 1971, to Chicago’s Sears Tower (now Willis Tower), which was the world’s tallest from 1973 to 1998. As of 2024, the tallest building in the U.S. (and sixth-tallest in the world) is One World Trade Center in New York City, but if one city has its way, that’s all set to change. Find out where America’s newest supertall building may soon be located.

A New Landmark Skyscraper

Aerial view of downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Credit: Sean Pavone/ Shutterstock

The skyline of Oklahoma City (home to around 700,000 people) likely doesn’t come to mind when you think of skyscrapers. The city’s current tallest building is the Devon Energy Center, reaching a mere 844 feet and 50 stories. But downtown Oklahoma City is set to become dramatically different thanks to the Boardwalk at Bricktown project.

California real estate developer and investor Scot Matteson and architectural firm AO have planned a prestigious mixed-use development that would include residential, hospitality, entertainment, dining, and retail spaces. Assuming the full project comes to fruition, the development would be centered around four towers. The tallest of these would be Legends Tower, a residential building topped with an observatory deck. Its height is planned to be 1,907 feet — a nod to the year Oklahoma gained statehood. Most notably, it would be 131 feet taller than the One World Trade Center, making it the country’s new tallest building. 

How Would a Supertall Skyscraper Fit into the OKC Skyline?

Modern glass-covered Devon Energy Center, the tallest building in Oklahoma City, seen from afar
Credit: Paul Brady Photography/ Shutterstock

Supertall skyscrapers are officially defined as being between 984 and 1,968 feet tall. Such skyscrapers are largely associated with the world’s megacities, places like New York City, Chicago, Dubai or Shanghai. One could ask why shouldn’t somewhere like Oklahoma City get in on the act? Yet, the Devon Energy Center, the city’s current tallest building, wouldn’t even make the top 30 tallest structures in New York City. Jason Barr, a professor of economics at Rutgers University and author of The Quest for the World’s Tallest Skyscrapers shared on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that he would consider such a skyscraper in Oklahoma City an “unprecedented outlier.”

How Suitable is Oklahoma City for This Project?

Large "OKC" block letters in park with Ferris wheel in Oklahoma City
Credit: Paul Brady Photography/ Shutterstock

Should it be a surprise that Oklahoma City has been earmarked for such an ambitious project? Supporters of the plan say that OKC is a dynamic, growing city filled with potential. It ranked 13th out of 83 cities in Arizona State University’s 2022 Doing Business North America report for ease of doing business, beating out cities like Denver, Dallas, Chicago, and Seattle. The greater Oklahoma City metro area continues on a steadily increasing trajectory, with the current estimated population of more than 1.4 million people set to rise even further over the next decade. 

However, after the pandemic, a significant percentage of employees no longer commute to the office, a decision that has had consequences for downtown business centers. Oklahoma City appears to be bucking this trend, but it’s a safe bet, nevertheless, that plans for the Boardwalk at Bricktown’s tallest skyscraper focus on residential apartments rather than offices. And then there’s nature: The National Weather Service recorded 74 tornadoes in the state of Oklahoma in 2023. Though most of those tornadoes were relatively small, critics of the proposal see the potential risk as a drawback. 

A City With a Can-Do Attitude

Credit: andy0man/ iStock

Interestingly, the Legends Tower wouldn’t be the first time a groundbreaking construction project has taken place in Oklahoma City. The Griffin Television Tower Oklahoma (sometimes referred to as the KWTV Mast) was the world’s tallest structure when it was built in 1954. At 1,576 feet tall, this aerial mast was higher than the Empire State Building and required guy-wires to stabilize it from the effects of severe storms. It lost its record-breaking status in 1956 to the KOBR-TV Tower in Caprock, New Mexico, and was sadly dismantled in February 2015. 

Looking to the Future

Aerial view of highways and downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Credit: Felix Mizioznikov/ Shutterstock

And what of the Legends Tower? In March 2024, developer Matteson told The Oklahoman that he had secured the $1.5 billion needed to fund the project, though some remain skeptical. And numerous hurdles remain, not least the need to gain approval from the city and from the Federal Aviation Administration for a building of this scale. 

Leasing considerations are also a factor — sufficient demand for apartment space in the development’s three shortest towers needs to be demonstrated before Legends Tower can kick off. The Oklahoma City Planning Commission makes its decision in spring 2024 — if green-lit, construction could break ground as early as summer 2024. Or, Oklahoma City’s dreams of taking the tallest skyscraper title may become a distant memory, at least for the time being.

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