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Proposal for the Tallest Building in America

The tallest building in America.

The U.S. is currently planning to build a 1,907-foot tall skyscraper, one that is set to be the tallest building in America and the sixth tallest in the world, but it’s not in a place you’d expect like New York City and Chicago. It’s not even in San Francisco or Boston, as the proposed city for this new supertall skyscraper is actually an extremely unlikely place.

It is Oklahoma City, the capital of Oklahoma state. This city is known for its cowboy culture, rich Native American history, and beautiful nature, and soon enough, for being home to America’s tallest skyscraper.

Why Oklahoma City?

Oklahoma City, the proposed location for the new 1,907-foot “Legends Tower” is certainly unconventional. In fact, the new skyscraper is set to really stand out in the city, since it will be more than double the height of Oklahoma City’s current tallest building.

If you take a look at a list of the top 10 tallest buildings in the United States, you’ll see that all of them are located in New York and Chicago, the country’s first and third largest cities, respectively. On the other hand, Oklahoma City is America’s 20th largest city, with a population of around 700,000 people. This led many wonder why exactly was Oklahoma City picked for this project.

According to Matteson Capital and AO, the developers behind the Oklahoma City skyscraper, the project is being undertaken because Oklahoma City is rapidly expanding, and can support a project of this large scale. This is because the city’s population grew by nearly 2% between 2020 and 2022, and between 2010 and 2020, Oklahoma City was one of 14 U.S. cities that added more than 100,000 people to its population.

The New Tallest Building in America

The plan is for the skyscraper to serve as an endorsement of a growing city by becoming the tallest building in America, but there’s just one issue, and it’s that the skyscraper may be doomed from the very start.

For starters, Oklahoma City’s mayor is not exactly committed to the plan, and one city economist dismissed the skyscraper as “pie in the sky.” Not only that, but many have criticized the proposal because they think more office space is the last thing the U.S. needs, because ever since the pandemic, the rise in work-from-home positions has weakened the demand for office space, and now, more office space is sitting empty in the U.S. than at any point since 1979.

But, the developers responded to this criticism by saying that instead of offices, the proposed Oklahoma City tower would include a 480-key Dream Hotel by Hyatt, with hundreds of rooms, around 1,750 apartments, and a 110,000 square feet area for retail stores and restaurants. Aside from the hotel, 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. Additionally, there will be three smaller 345-foot buildings standing in front of the high-rise tower.

This is because the skyscraper is part of a wider development project called the Boardwalk, an ambitious development that encompasses over 3 acres, and over 2 million square feet of residential, hospitality, retail, dining and entertainment venues. This megaproject aims to deliver an exciting architectural tapestry of modern design and a rich mixed-use experience, transferring Bricktown in Oklahoma City into a vibrant entertainment district.

Notably, the project will also include extraordinary public spaces that are poised to become central hubs for community engagement, and these include a 17,000 square foot lagoon and water feature surrounded by a boardwalk that adds a tranquil, yet lively, entertainment atmosphere to the development.

Developers say that demand for this type of project exists in Oklahoma City because of new sports and entertainment options. For example, voters recently approved a new arena for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the area, as well as plans for a new soccer stadium, which will be really important during the 2026 World Cup that will be held in the U.S..

The Criticism

Even though the city has invested heavily in the infrastructure surrounding the what’s supposed to be the tallest building in America, the developers still need to get approval from Oklahoma City to build the tower, and this might prove itself to be a challenge.

When asked whether he supported the tower or not, Oklahoma City’s mayor, David Holt, said in an emailed statement to CNN, “In my observation private developers often announce plans and some of those plans happen, and some don’t. I have no strong opinion and look forward to following their effort.”

Aside from the lack of clarity over the city’s support for the tower, another challenge facing it is the financing. It’s not rocket science that the taller a high-rise is, the more expensive it becomes because of the added structures to support the building, and many people question if Oklahoma, of all states, is worth the premium of the construction costs. The entire development project is estimated to cost $1.6 billion, including $770 million for the tower, according to Matteson Capital. The company also said that funding for the project will come from multiple sources, including $200 million in subsidies approved by the city, and the firm is also pursuing additional state and federal funding.

Another source of criticism was the tower’s size itself, aka, the tower’s entire selling point. According to Jason Barr, a professor of economics at Rutgers University-Newark who studies the economics of skyscrapers, the height of a city’s tallest building should be strongly correlated with the height of its second tallest building, but this won’t be the case with this tower, because it’s planned to be more than twice the height of the city’s current tallest building, the Devon Energy Center office building.

He also said that a city’s population is also a strong indicator of how tall its tallest building will be, and large cities like New York or Chicago can have taller buildings because they have more people and more companies that need office spaces. But, the Oklahoma tower struck Barr as “way too tall given the city’s population.” Notably, New York’s population is around 12 times the size of Oklahoma City’s, and Chicago’s population is four times larger. In other words, the smaller the city, the harder it will be to fill all that extra space and at a price that makes building it worth it in the first place.

There’s also the fact that Oklahoma is one of the several states located in the middle of Tornado Alley, an area in the U.S. that is known to be more vulnerable to tornadoes. In fact, the state of Oklahoma had 74 tornadoes alone last year, according to the National Weather Service. Meaning, the skyscraper must be built with sustainability and safety in mind, not only for the integrity of the structure as a whole, but also for the integrity of the cladding, which is something that serves as the building’s “skin” by enveloping its exterior with protective and decorative materials. This construction technique helps protect a building from external elements like the weather, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations.

Does Oklahoma Need it?

If you ask the developers behind the project this question, they’ll immediately answer yes, and this answer can be justified if you look at Oklahoma’s tourism sector. The state, which recorded a $191.39 billion GDP in 2022, saw 23.2 million visitors in that same year, and this translated into an estimated economic impact of $4.3 billion.

Also in 2022, visitors to Oklahoma City spent $2.6 billion directly on food and beverages and retail, as well as recreation and entertainment. Not only that, but they also spent money on getting lodging and transportation. This sustained more than 33,000 jobs in the city, and generated $343 million in state and local tax revenues in 2022. Most recently in 2023, travel spending in Oklahoma increased to a record-breaking $11.8 billion, a 12.3% increase from the previous record of $10.5 billion set in 2021.

It’s obvious that Oklahoma has a strong tourism industry, and people come to the city from all around the world to see the Scissortail Park or ride the Bricktown water taxis, so having an entertainment district and the tallest building in America shouldn’t be too far-fetched. The main problem is the skyscraper, as its height will make it stand out like a sore thumb in the city, so it can be made shorter to work. Also, it shouldn’t ignore safety, because we can’t celebrate the country building its tallest skyscraper, only for it to be hit by a typhoon later and be seriously impacted, which could lead to really bad economic losses.


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