Cities across the United States are in the middle of a multi-year boom in construction, fueled by local—and foreign—investment and a need for thousands of new apartments.
The surge comes a decade after the Great Recession halted construction and stalled projects nationwide.
According to a Stateline analysis of inflation-adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the construction industry’s impact on U.S. gross domestic product has grown by more than 21 percent since its recession low point in 2011, and in 2016, construction’s contribution to the U.S. economy soared above $650 billion for the first time since 2008.
These facts and figures all mean one thing: The skylines of cities are changing. Supertall skyscrapers measuring over 984 feet are currently under construction or have recently debuted in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, while other cities, like Boston, Austin, and Philadelphia, are prepping for new high-rises of their own.
We reached out to 13 local Curbed editors from across the country to discover which projects are transforming their cities. Some—like the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco and the Zaha Hadid-designed One Thousand Museum in Miami—are under construction and trekking along toward completion. Other developments—like the just-announced plans for the Hudson’s site redevelopment in Detroit—are in the beginning stages.
All of the projects listed below will fundamentally change their cities, whether by redeveloping a long-neglected area or debuting one of the tallest observation decks in the country. So without further ado, may we present the 13 most important construction projects and developments happening right now in the United States.
Vista Tower in Chicago
The Windy City is in the midst of a building boom, with Curbed Chicago mapping no fewer than 44 high-rises currently under construction. The windfall has also spread out of the Loop and into the city's neighborhoods; construction hotbeds like Milwaukee Avenue will see upward of 3,000 new apartment units over the next few years.
But no project is bigger than the Vista Tower, a 93-story giant that will become the third-tallest tower in Chicago when it’s completed in 2020. Foundation work started late last year on the Studio Gang-designed building, and it will be the tallest tower in the world designed by a woman-led firm (overtaking Studio Gang's Aqua, which is just around the corner).
Vista Tower also has some unique backing: A Chicago-based developer teamed up with a Chinese developer, signaling the type of foreign investment that is much more common in cities like Miami and New York.
See the other 43 high-rises under construction right now in Chicago right this way.
Salesforce Tower in San Francisco
It’s hard to pick just one important development in a city like San Francisco, especially when the skyline is crowded with cranes and enormous transit projects like the $1.5-billion-plus Central Subway are boring tunnels underground.
And even though Oceanwide Center—San Francisco’s future second-tallest building—and the 70-story building at 181 Fremont are getting a lot of press, the most important construction project in the city has got to be Salesforce Tower.
Scheduled for completion in 2017, Salesforce Tower—which was designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects—has already become the city’s tallest building, and workers poured the concrete for the top floor in January. In total, the supertall tower will top out at 1,070 feet and is the centerpiece of the San Francisco Transbay redevelopment plan.
The 6AM Development in Los Angeles
2016 was a big year for skyscrapers in Los Angeles. The 73-story Wilshire Grand Center was crowned with a decorative spire that reaches a height of 1,100 feet, making it the tallest building in the city. Meanwhile, the second-tallest building—the US Bank Tower—made headlines in 2016 thanks to the hair-raising glass slide attached to its exterior, which dropped from the 70th to the 69th floor—nearly 1,000 feet in the air.
Not to be outdone, 2017 looks to bring even more high-rise action, with Curbed Los Angeles mapping 20 tall buildings that are planned or currently under construction. The most important just might be the 6AM development: two 58-story towers on Alameda Street that will radically alter LA’s hot Arts District.
As the first skyscrapers proposed for the neighborhood, the towers will be designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and will feature an industrial-warehouse style and incorporate local art. When it’s finished, locals can expect housing, a school, offices, and retail—much of it framed in concrete and left intentionally blank to “encourage murals and other evolutionary art responses.”
The project is still in the early stages and will require a zoning change and general plan amendment in order to be built. That could be a problem for developers given the upcoming ballot initiative—called Measure S—that would crack down on projects needing zoning changes. For more on Measure S and all of the other high-rises coming to Los Angeles, head over here.
One Vanderbilt in New York City
It’s almost impossible to stay on top of all the construction happening in New York City, whether it’s the building boom in Hudson Yards or the plethora of new developments popping up along the High Line in neighboring West Chelsea.
Nowhere else in the United States boasts as many skyscrapers, and New York City’s boom hasn’t been limited to “regular” high-rise construction. According to Curbed New York, many of the city's highest-profile developments, from One World Trade Center to Central Park Tower, all exceed the 984-foot limit that takes a building from merely tall to supertall.
Perhaps the most important development currently under construction in New York City is One Vanderbilt, a 1,401-foot-tall glass tower rising above Midtown East. With plans for a publicly accessible observation deck at 1,020 feet—one of the highest in the city—the KPF-designed building will also span more than 1 million square feet over 58 stories, and will have a 30,000-square-foot amenity space for tenants.
On the street level, One Vanderbilt will add a public plaza and new connections to the subway and Metro-North, including a huge new entrance for the 4/5/6 lines. Construction began in October 2016 and has been moving along at a good clip; earlier in February builders poured the supertall’s enormous foundation (think 8,500 tons of concrete).
The Winthrop Square Garage conversion in Boston
The uptick in urban construction hasn’t bypassed Boston, a city known for its relatively low building heights. But Boston now has a surprising number of high rises planned or under construction. As Curbed Boston puts it, there are “eight buildings either under construction or planned in the city right now of at least 400 feet. That is an extraordinary height in a city where 200 feet seems de rigueur and 600 feet is positively revolutionary.”
One of the most important is the controversial redevelopment of the city-owned Winthrop Square Garage, where developer Millennium Partners plans to build what would be the city's tallest primarily residential tower. Handel Architects is behind the designs for the building, which would include a spire that rises to 775 feet. Despite having city backing, some fear that the building’s height will potentially cast shadows on the Boston Common and the Public Garden.
For more on Winthrop Square Garage—and the other major projects transforming Boston—head this way.
The Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia
Philadelphia has its fair share of cranes and towers topping out, and the majority of the construction is in the high-end market. At least 14 of the 26 high-rises currently under construction will debut in 2017, but locals will have to wait until 2018 for the biggest project: the Comcast Technology Center.
Philadelphia’s newest tower will rise 60 stories, and the second $1.5 billion Comcast tower has already staked its place in the Philly skyline. When it’s complete, the building—which was designed by architect Lord Norman Foster of Foster + Partners—will be the tallest in the city and serve as headquarters for Comcast employees and include a Four Seasons Hotel and three condo units—all owned by the company's CEO.
The Hudson’s Site Development in Detroit
Before this month, locals might have chosen the highly anticipated Little Caesars Arena as the most important development in Detroit. The arena is nearing completion and will serve not only as the base for the Red Wings and Pistons, but also as an office and retail hub that fills the district between downtown and Midtown.
But that was before billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock proposed plans to build the tallest building in Michigan. Set on the site of Hudson’s—Detroit’s iconic department store—the new development will include a 52-story, 734-foot tower, and cover over 1.2 million square feet. A nine-story “podium” will offer mixed-use, commercial, office, technology, arts, and culture space, while plans also call for 250 residential units and 700 parking spaces. Planners hope that the project will be complete in 2020.
Both the Hudson’s site development and the new arena are part of Detroit’s hot construction scene. The city has at least nine major projects set to transform the urban core, with a few debuting this year.
Head over here for 24 of Detroit’s biggest construction projects that have already broken ground.
One Thousand Museum in Miami
The most important one is the highly anticipated Zaha Hadid project known as One Thousand Museum. Now past the halfway mark, the 62-story high-rise condominium will tower over 700 feet, making it one of Miami’s tallest buildings upon its completion in 2018. It will also be the first building in the United States to utilize a glass-fiber reinforced concrete outer shell as the permanent framework for its exoskeleton.
The Wharf in Washington, D.C.
2016 was a busy year in our nation’s capital, with big developments like the opening of the National Museum of African American History & Culture and the Walter Reed Campus land deal. But 2017 could be even bigger, especially because at least 11 major developments are expected to make their debut after years of construction and planning.
One of the most important is the Southwest Waterfront’s $2 billion, 3.2 million-square-foot Wharf project. While it will take years before the mile-long, 27-acre development is fully complete, the project’s first residential and office buildings will be ready by the fall of 2017. The residential building will scale 12 stories with 112 units and amenities that will include a rooftop pool and private elevators, and the 28,000-square-foot office building will be built on a pier—a first for the District.
Interested in other large developments currently under construction in Washington D.C.? We’ve mapped them all right this way.
The Washington State Convention Center in Seattle
If there was any doubt that Seattle is changing quickly, just take a look at this statistic: 62 cranes decorated the Seattle skyline at the end of 2016—more cranes than any other U.S. city. Seattle is also betting big on transportation (to the tune of a $50 billion rail expansion) in an effort to reduce traffic.
With a laundry list of new developments and over a dozen high-rises currently under construction, it’s hard to pick just one as the city’s most important. But the scope of the proposed expansion of the Washington State Convention Center makes it an apt choice. More than any other project in Seattle, the convention center—with a design team led by LMN architects—will fundamentally change the landscape of downtown.
The ambitious project will add 1.2 million square feet of exhibition and meeting space, a 30-story residential tower with 428 units, a 16-story office building, and new retail and public spaces all along the exterior. According to Curbed Seattle, it’s not only the largest project in city history—costing about $1.6 billion—but is also at the the center of a debate about just how much developers owe Seattle for use of public land.
The Atlanta Falcons Stadium in Atlanta
There’s a lot happening in the construction world of Atlanta, from a whopping 33 construction projects in the exclusive Buckhead district to the never-ending construction in Midtown. But two projects have dominated headlines: the new Atlanta Falcons stadium and the soon-to-be-opened sections of the Atlanta Beltline.
Called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of Atlanta football is a $1.5 billion venture that is years in the making. The HOK-designed stadium, which is scheduled to open this summer, will feature a retractable roof in the shape of a pinwheel that’s inspired by the Roman Pantheon.
The city’s other major project is the Atlanta Beltline, a former railway corridor that is being transformed into a multi-use trail. Two long-awaited Beltline projects—the three-mile Westside Trail and a 1.25-mile extension of the popular Eastside Trail—are on schedule to debut in summer 2017, and real estate experts are predicting that the development will be a boon to adjacent neighborhoods.
The Independent in Austin
Austin may not be as large as most of the other cities on this list—a 2016 estimate put its population at 926,000—but Curbed Austin reports that this fast-growing city is “a hail of jackhammers, construction dust, and related detours.”
There are currently 24 high-rises either recently built, under construction, or in the planning stages in the Texas town, creating a veritable boom. Perhaps the most interesting one is the Independent, a 58-story structure designed by Rhode:Partners that’s often referred to as “The Jenga Tower” thanks to its unique design.
While the Independent is currently under construction, it’s not scheduled to open until 2018. Nevertheless, more than half of its 370 residential units, which range from from $424,000 to more than $3.29 million, have been sold. Thirteen thousand five hundred square feet of retail and restaurant space is also planned.
The Children’s Hospital campus expansion in New Orleans
New Orleans doesn’t have the same amount of construction as many of the other cities on this list, but that doesn’t mean things are stagnant. Supertalls may not be in the mix, but the Big Easy has its fair share of new apartment complexes, hotels, and renovations.
One of the largest projects is the expansion and renovation of the New Orleans Children’s Hospital. Costing $225 million, the multi-year development will include a new same-day surgery unit, a cardiac intensive care unit, a neonatal cardiac intensive care unit, a cancer center, a 400-car garage, and a newly designed entrance and lobby.