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Will New York City ever get a megatall tower?

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Buildings rising more than 2,000 feet remain elusive in skyscraper-heavy New York

At 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center is still the city’s tallest building.
Max Touhey

Even though New York City is home to plenty of supertall towers—22 are either in development or have been built, to be precise—a so-called “megatall,” defined by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as more than 600 meters, or 1,968 feet, remains elusive.

The Real Deal took a look at some of the reasons why New York hasn’t yet gotten one of those cloud-piercing skyscrapers, and unsurprisingly, two of the usual suspects—the city’s zoning regulations, and money—were cited by nearly everyone TRD spoke with.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to go up that high,” said Michael Stern of JDS Development—which currently has several supertalls in the works—citing the fact that “the city spent the last number of years getting rid of the higher-density zones.”

In addition to the challenges of assembling a parcel of land big enough to accommodate a megatall, restrictions on floor area ratio mean that developers frequently need to assemble an air rights puzzle—which “requires cutting deals with several different parties, including city officials and neighboring property owners,” per TRD—that may eventually be challenged by opponents.

And then there’s the financial aspect. “Private developers aren’t driven to build supertalls in order to cement the city’s global prestige — they are building what makes financial sense,” according to TRD, and right now, super-pricey luxury towers don’t make the cut. The proliferation of supertall towers—particularly along Billionaires’ Row—has cooled in recent years, and even those towers are facing challenges thanks to the softening luxury market.

Currently, there are a few megatalls in development or under construction across the world; the tallest, the Jeddah Tower, is on the rise in Saudi Arabia and will rise a whopping 3,281 feet when completed. It’s designed by Adrian Smith, the architect behind Burj Khalifa, the world’s current tallest tower.

No NYC building comes even comes close to those: The tallest completed building is One World Trade Center, at a symbolic 1,776 feet tall, while the tallest under construction, Central Park Tower (also by Smith, as part of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture), will rise 1,550 feet.

So will NYC ever see a megatall? TRD’s sources weren’t exactly bullish. “It’s not impossible, but I don’t think you are going to see a 2,000-foot building in New York anytime soon,” said Stern. We’ll let you weigh in in the comments.