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Today’s Skyscraper Boom Can’t Match the Big-Haired ‘80s

National  + Weekender  | 

By Paul Bubny

They’re rising on West 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan, in downtown Seattle and on the Miami waterfront. The current building boom is adding dozens of office and residential towers greater than 500 feet tall to skylines across the U.S. Ten have been completed in 2018, including three “supertall” towers of greater than 1,000 feet in height.

However, research from Yardi’s CommercialCafe shows that the current pace of new additions to the ranks of U.S. skyscrapers lags that of the 1980s. The decade of big hair and shoulder pads brought 38 tall buildings to New York City’s inventory, 19 to Chicago and 15 to Houston. While New York has added more towers since 2010 than it did between 1980 and 1989, the numbers are considerably lower in other markets.

“In terms of buildings that are taller than 500 feet, the infamously-lucrative Eighties remain the most prolific decade in the history of American skyscrapers,” according to a CommercialCafe blog posting.

“As major cities densified and grew in population, a flurry of extra tall hotels, corporate headquarters, bank and insurance company office towers and residential skyscrapers sprang up all across the country,” according to CommercialCafe. “However, this rapid growth petered out in the early ‘90s.” New York, for instance, saw just 11 skyscrapers completed between 1990 and 1999, while none were built in Boston, Dallas, Houston or San Francisco.

Notwithstanding the recently-completed Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia or the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (pictured), the current skyscraper boom is dominated by residential. Sixty-three rental or condominium towers are under construction for delivery by 2022, according to CommercialCafe.

In South Florida’s Sunny Isles Beach, no fewer than four residential towers are set to deliver by 2020. All are “designed to max out the 649-foot limit imposed in the area.”

In other cities, while the new towers aren’t necessarily going to challenge the existing height records, several are at least partially residential. These include San Francisco’s First Street Tower of Oceanside Center, and Seattle’s Rainier Square Tower, both including apartments along with office and hotel space.

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About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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