The Cities Blog

In a few years, the nation's tallest building may not be in New York or Chicago

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The Legends Tower would rise 1,907 feet above Oklahoma City, putting an exclamation mark on the city's skyline.

Plans are moving forward in Oklahoma City to construct a skyscraper that would dominate the city's skyline, rising to twice the height of what is currently the tallest building in the state. But the developers are aiming at an even greater superlative: tallest building in the United States.

Groundbreaking on the overall mixed-use project is expected to begin this fall. It would eventually include the Legends Tower, soaring to 1,907 feet — a number chosen to commemorate the year Oklahoma became a state. And with a long spire atop its roof, it stands to lift the crown of the nation's tallest building from One World Trade Center in New York City, which stands at 1,776 feet.

"People have asked me often, what do you think about this development?” Councilwoman Nikki Nice said before a vote on the massive project this week. “I mean, sky is the limit, no pun intended.”

The project that would remake Oklahoma City is being led by two California firms: real estate developer Matteson Capital and the architecture firm AO. The developers say they have lined up more than $1 billion in financing for the project.

Here are more details about the ambitious plan:

How big is it?

Legends Tower would stand at more than twice the height of Devon Energy Center — which at 844 feet is the tallest building in Oklahoma City right now. It would have 126 levels above the base "podium" of the development, called the Boardwalk at Bricktown.

Plans filed with the city show that the massive Legends structure would have 86 levels of luxury residences (with an amenity level), topped by 12 levels of luxury penthouse space. Above that would be a 16-level Hyatt hotel, along with nine more levels of Hyatt residences. Then comes an indoor pool, topped by two levels that would have an observation deck and "sky restaurant," according to the plans.

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The Boardwalk at Bricktown would include four towers in total: Legends, Dream, Emerald and Ruby. Developers also plan to have a 17,000-square-foot lagoon, along with restaurant and living spaces.

The entire mixed-use project would account for roughly 5 million square feet (including usable roof space and parking). Other amenities would include a 17,000-square-foot lagoon surrounded by a boardwalk, along with several large roof decks. The plans do not include any office space.

What's the tower's current status?

It got over a key hurdle this week. The Oklahoma City Council removed height restrictions on the parcel of land next to railroad tracks in the city's downtown, helping to clear the way for the Legends Tower.

Councilman James Cooper, the lone "no" in that nine-member vote, said he couldn't support the plan without more assurances that the developers will work to provide affordable housing units and aid homeless people.

In a filing with the city in late 2023, the developers said they planned to have 48 affordable housing units in the large project. In addition, it would include some 140 "work force" living units, meant for people earning less than the median income for the area.

The developers have made overtures about helping to ease an affordable housing crisis, Cooper said — but he then added that a website highlighting those efforts seemed to be only one level deep, with links that didn't work.

"There's just nothing here that inspires any sort of confidence toward that effort," Cooper said.

The full project still needs other approvals to go forward, including from the city's Planning Commission. Previously, one sticking point had been signs: The plans submitted last December included 1,000-foot-tall LED displays on the building's four sides.

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The towers in the Boardwalk at Bricktown development in Oklahoma City would soar above an entertainment space.

What's the timing?

Legends Tower is slated to stand among three much smaller towers: Dream, Emerald and Ruby. But the skyscraper wouldn't be the first thing built.

The Brobdingnagian tower would be part of Phase 2, rising to become the centerpiece of the development after completion of the three other buildings.

"For the second phase, the hope would be to start in a couple of years, and it would probably take about three years to build the second phase of that project," Rob Budetti, of AO, told the Oklahoma City Council this week.

For the fourth tower, he said, it would likely take "five years for it to come online."

What do locals think?

Councilwoman Nice said at this week's council meeting that she couldn't recall whether any residents have been pushing against the project. But, she added, "I know some folks are a little nervous to see how this could be built."

That summary would seem to include the feelings of people who live and work in the Bricktown area, who spoke to member station KOSU earlier this year.

"I feel like it's kind of a PR stunt," Shannon Burke, who lives a few blocks from the proposed skyscraper site, told the station. But, she noted, other large-scale projects have given a big boost to the city's downtown, like the Oklahoma City Thunder arena (which is slated to be replaced, in another ambitious plan).

"I think it would be a big eyesore," Burke said of the Legends Tower. "But if it gets people talking and bringing them to Oklahoma to go see this crazy skyscraper, then it could help the economy."

As KOSU notes, there are also questions about how a glass-enclosed supertall tower might fare during a tornado. In response, Budetti called it "basically a math problem," saying the design would need to take into account how much force the tower must be able to withstand.

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