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June 8, 2024 1:08 PM   Subscribe

The Oklahoma City Council (NPR) voted this week (NYT gift) to clear the way for the 1,907 foot (Popular Science) Legends Tower (Master Design Statement .pdf), which would be the tallest building in the US. It may be 'impropable' (Architectural Record), a 'PR stunt' (NPR station KOSU), or even 'sheer fantasy' (OKC Free Press), especially (The Oklahoman) in a state that has seen 103 tornadoes (National Weather Service) in 2024. It would definitely be expensive--developers (developers' site) say they have $1b in financing lined up.
posted by box (24 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Under "Why Oklahoma?"

Oklahoma city reportedly grew its popularity around 2% between 2020 and 2020 (sic), partly thanks to a larger population reorganization that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oh! That explains it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:15 PM on June 8


Well, that's just stupid.
Energy efficient? Probably not.
Disaster magnet? Most likely.
Architectual enhancement to surrounding area? Not.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:27 PM on June 8


"Mere increase in size no more signifies improvement, or even adaptation, than technological expansion ensures a good life. The very dynamism of growth, as in the change of hand weapons to the hydrogen bomb, only increases the area of possible destruction"
posted by clavdivs at 1:33 PM on June 8


I'm curious about what this will do to the insurance rates of any building within a 1,907-foot radius. You know, for when it falls over.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:33 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


Two thoughts:

1. Why? I see the reasons, but they aren’t super-convincing. If there’s one think Oklahoma has (besides transphobia culture warriors), it’s horizontal space. Oh, and tornadoes as noted.

2. Not all legends have upbeat endings. Just sayin’.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:34 PM on June 8


Oklahoma city reportedly grew its popularity around 2%

I wonder if they're gauging popularity by counting how many people live there.
posted by aubilenon at 1:35 PM on June 8 [5 favorites]


Looking at the design statement, Oklahoma City Dodgers? Are they implying the building will entice the team ownership into moving the team? Just seems like a weird choice.
posted by calamari kid at 1:39 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think that is one of the most poorly constructed sentences/arguments I've ever read. Oklahoma City (capitalized). Changing by 2% sounds pathetic. Between 2020 and 2020? How the hell was COVID involved?
(The Dodgers are the minor league team stationed in OKC)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:41 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I lived in OKC from 2006 to 2016, and took a look around when I visited last year.

Way back when, I was very familiar with both downtown (which was empty outside of office working hours, and a great place for cycling) and the area north of downtown up until you hit I-44. I experienced the waves of money that first Chesapeake and then Devon brought to the two areas, but I'd assumed that the relative weakness of the natural gas market meant that we wouldn't see the same kind of changes that Aubrey McClendon's free-spending, criminally-inclined ways brought to the area.

That was absolutely not the case. My old neighborhood was nearly changed beyond recognition. I made sure to get a hotel room at a fancy place just north of my old apartment, mostly because I'd gotten drunk on the porch of it when it was an abandoned building. This was the right move, honestly, just to dive right in to the deep end of all of the changes... and the changes were massive, and sometimes great. Bus stops were now plentiful and I saw far more buses on the road than I ever had before! It was a random winter Sunday but the completed Scissortail Park downtown was full of people! But so much of the town felt like it was being remodeled into knockoff Apple Stores*.

From the vibe I got, fitting in a massive upscale Urban Center For Everything downtown is just the next step here. The area has changed wildly. Adding in a record-breaking tower seems apropos.

Besides, there were always discussions about building something shockingly giant downtown. People at the time really wanted a way to announce OKC as a Big Shit City, in a way that stealing a basketball team never could. Thing is, I had thought that the general urge to do that was fulfilled by the Devon tower, which is some 50-odd stories tall (and apparently not the boondoggle I had assumed it would always be?) so, again, this just seems perfectly in line with what I saw, and lived with.

This plan just feels like it's been coming for a long while. I'm just happy that they're keeping the spinning U-Haul truck next door.


* The old dingy dive bar that could only sell weak 3.2% beer was suddenly a bright white brunchery! It was SO WEIRD. I feel sorry for the bartender there, because I walked in there and literally could not stop laughing. I tried to apologize, but I probably upset at least one diner who just wanted a nice night out... also, RIP Hilo Club, but that place was always coming down.
posted by suckerpunch at 2:44 PM on June 8 [23 favorites]


The mixed used tower, as currently proposed, would be mostly residential with 1,750 apartments.

Anything that expands the housing market can't be all bad.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:47 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Maybe they want to be like Dubai, a petrostate with codified misogyny, contempt for the migrant labor they depend on, and deadly heat waves. Oh and skyscrapers.
posted by condour75 at 2:48 PM on June 8 [22 favorites]


(The Dodgers are the minor league team stationed in OKC)

Ah, I should have looked that up.

No, I'm not still bitter over the Sonics, why do you ask?
posted by calamari kid at 3:12 PM on June 8


Wow, fascinating story, thanks. I guess the city has little to lose by lifting the height restriction, since I'm guessing they know it seems unlikely the building will ever be finished. From the Architectural Record story:

Skepticism remains regarding the feasibility of the project considering the relatively slack demand for a megaproject in a tornado-prone metropolitan area counting just under 1.5 million residents (the 42nd largest in the country), as well as mystery surrounding the two developers—neither Matteson Capital or Centurion Partners have websites or a social media presence...There is also the question of technical knowhow. The architect, AO, while prolific in designing stadium-adjacent entertainment districts, award-winning multi-family developments, and shopping centers, including a Tuscan-style outlet mall in Busan, South Korea, has never completed a project of this complexity.

That embedded link goes to a January story at The Real Deal, "Who is Scot Matteson, the developer planning the tallest tower in the US?", which notes there's little detail anywhere about Matteson's previous business dealings, and quotes Matteson's own partners hedging by calling the big tower "aspirational":

The developer, however, has an opaque background...Details of his completed projects are sparse, other than what he has told the press. He claims to have 40 years of development experience...

In addition to listing Matteson Capital and Centurion Partners in his employment history, his LinkedIn profile says he had a four-year stint as executive chairman and founder of Quiksilver Hotels & Resorts International from 2013-2017. Like Matteson’s other ventures, there is very little information on the company...

Some news outlets ran stories about the company’s strategy in 2014, as well as its plans to build a $350-million-dollar “world class” surf resort in Palm Desert. Ten years later there are still no signs of the resort...

Since 2020, however, Matteson has almost no digital footprint, until he resurfaced with The Boardwalk at Bricktown plans...Matteson’s partners have expressed doubts about the project becoming a reality. Randy Hogan, an Oklahoma developer who is partnering with Matteson on the project, called the supertall proposal “aspirational,” according to The Oklahoman. And that was back when the plans called for the tower to rise only 1,750 feet.


Yeah, if I lived in Oklahoma City I'd be calling my councilfolks to stop them from giving this guy taxpayer money. (I left out the links to Matteson's brief high-profile relationship with one of the stars of Real Housewives of Orange County, and his ex-wife using that occasion to publicly call him out as under a restraining order after a domestic violence hearing, and for owing her money after bouncing a $7K child support check, but they're in those articles if you want to see them.)
posted by mediareport at 3:22 PM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Like Matteson’s other ventures, there is very little information on the company

Ah, so it's a scam. I predict a bunch of ground gets cleared, maybe even put some girders and get a bunch of construction equipment, and then it dies, while Matteson skips away with lots of money.

How is it that OKC politicians are so easily hoodwinked by obvious bullshit? This guy's supposed career sounds like a textbook example of the saying, "there's no there there."
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:37 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Hoodwinked? Or a bit o grift?
posted by symbioid at 3:45 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Well, so far I don't think the city has committed any cash, and hopefully isn't stupid enough to give the guy any in the future. And all we have is the shady guy's own word that he has the financing in place. My wild guess at this point is that the city just figured the vote to remove the height restriction would get OKC some free publicity (not least from folks in NYC who'd lose tallest U.S. building status).

I did just learn that downtown Oklahoma City is having something of a renaissance, so I suppose it worked.
posted by mediareport at 3:48 PM on June 8


Probably the greatest—Aw, it's not for you. It's more a Shelbyville idea.

Now, wait just a minute. We're twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. Just tell us your idea and we'll vote for it.
posted by General Malaise at 4:03 PM on June 8 [12 favorites]


I started looking at what's in the area, and now I'm kinda daydreaming about taking the Amtrak Texas Eagle to OKC's historic Santa Fe Station, then visiting the Myriad Botanical Garden, OKC Museum of Art, and Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.

And also looking at this U-Haul building.

This makes me want to learn more about how that downtown renaissance is going. I also live in a medium-sized city in a Southern state, and I wonder how much of the history is shared.

I'm guessing there was a lot of urban sprawl in the 20th century, with both racism and highway construction feeding into it. Sometime in the last forty years, maybe more than once, some urban planners promoted a downtown revitalization. Parks, cultural spaces, the works. Some big projects get completed, both public and private, but downtown property owners mostly decide they'll just keep their low-rise office buildings and parking lots instead of building affordable housing, and the fancy new condos have a lot of turnover and vacancies because there's not enough population density to support either the ridership or political capital required to build robust public transit, and there's nowhere to buy paper towels without driving your car to a different neighborhood.

Dammit, now I want to read about the history of urban planning in Oklahoma City.
posted by box at 4:06 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Oh Oklahoma. I grew up in that state. Like many other southern midwest cities, Oklahoma's big cities have wonderful cosmopolitan and artsy people/scenes as well as serious wealth -- that often funds the arts -- from fossil fuel magnates. So much potential but then the state keeps electing the most hateful, vile people imaginable.

I want to say, "it's cool you all are dreaming big and don't stop doing so, but you've got a hate problem that needs to be addressed before any sane person is going to take you as seriously as you want to be taken". There are only so many cosmopolitan types who are going to want to live in that thing and the rest of the condos are going to be vacant or occupied by the most virulently racist and cultish people you've ever met.

All this to say, this does not seem viable from a sociological standpoint, at all. But, keep dreaming -- dreams are sometimes how positive change happens
posted by treepour at 4:22 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


previously
posted by pwnguin at 4:41 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


If it gets built, the vibes suggest it has a real chance of going all High-Rise.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:00 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


As a born and raised Oklahoman they love to announce shit that never happens. I'm still bitter about Bell's being closed because of shitty Oklahoma government. But for decades now it's been teased as coming back over and over by the failson of the Bell family. And then it doesn't. And then they claimed to be building the next Disney World based on no intellectual property and no plan and the "first stage" is just a trailer park in Vinita. If you know Vinita that was never gonna happen. Oklahoma does not build things. It gives taxpayer money to real estate people who then give a portion of that money back to the candidates. It's a broken state.
posted by downtohisturtles at 5:11 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Yay, it's not in Tulsa! This state needs affordable housing, not a building tall enough to taunt the storms.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:56 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I'd occasionally visit OKC when I lived in Enid, OK for several months in the mid-nineties, and the existing 50-foot tower seems more their speed, current population spurt notwithstanding. The developer seems like the type of guy who likes to announce big projects, bask in the adulation from the locals, and then slink off to another city to run the same cycle. (There's also that disturbing detail from the link that mediareport posted about his daughters having set up a GoFundMe page to fund his treatment for pancreatic cancer, not something that screams "successful developer.") We've got our own local version of the big-talking, non-delivering developer, and hopefully the OKC locals won't lose too much money to their guy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:55 AM on June 9


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