Real Estate News: Steps Unclear in Builders’ Race to Top

Here is a look at real-estate news from the weekend and today on WSJ.com:

Real Estate News: Pointed Spat Over World Trade Spire

Here is a look at real-estate news in Thursday’s WSJ:

Why New York’s Tallest Doesn’t Measure Up

Ramin Talaie for The Wall Street Journal
One World Trade Center, built to replace the towers destroyed Sept. 11, 2001, on Monday gets steel columns to make it New York City’s tallest building. Once finished, it will be one of the world’s highest.

With its steel beams expected to rise past 1,250 feet on Monday, One World Trade Center will eclipse the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York City on its way to becoming the Western Hemisphere’s highest skyscraper.

One WTC’s 1,776-foot height, measured from the top of its spire, is a towering achievement by American standards — 325 feet taller than the nation’s current highest, the 1451-foot Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly the Sears Tower).

But when compared to skyscraper projects underway across the globe, the skyscraper formerly known as the Freedom Tower projects a less imposing image: 1,776 feet just isn’t so tall anymore.

Read the full post on the WSJ’s Metropolis blog

One World Trade Center Hits 100 Stories, Helped by Funny Math

Associated Press
One World Trade Center in New York, shown on Feb. 27.

The steel skeleton of One World Trade Center reached 100 stories this week, according to the Port Authority, with beams on the tower now soaring about 1,240 feet above the ground.

But just last week, the tower had only reached 93 stories.

What gives?

Floors 94 through 99 simply don’t exist in the tower, allowing for the seamless jump from 93 to 100. (The tower at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan will ultimately reach 104 stories.)

Such is the strange world of real-estate math, where developers number their own floors, often opting for the arbitrary over the actual. (See a related example: the 80-story Time Warner Center at Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.)

“It is fairly common practice in the design of high-rise towers to see variable floors counts,” a spokesman for the Port Authority said.

At One WTC, part of this funny math has to do with the height of the upper floors of the tower. While a typical office floor in the building has a height of about 13 feet, 3 inches, the final office floors, ending at 90, have higher ceilings. In addition, 91 through 93 are floors for mechanical equipment, with significantly higher ceilings than normal.

And more of the odd numbering comes from the uninhabitable 186-foot base of the tower that acts as a fortified—and windowless—block, for security reasons, with a lobby on the ground floor. So when people take an elevator to the top of this base structure, they’re actually on the second “useable floor” (in addition to the ground floor), but it’s officially numbered the 20th floor. Make sense?

In the end, it more or less works out to what the stories should be. The roof of the 104-story tower is slated to be 1,368 feet. Given typical office floors of a bit more than 13 feet, that’s about where 104 stories would end, in reality.

Touring the Other World Trade Tower

Eliot Brown/The Wall Street Journal
Construction at New York’s 4 World Trade Center in February. Slide show

Redevelopment of the World Trade Center site is now evident in the Lower Manhattan skyline, mostly with the under-construction One World Trade Center, now more than 90 floors up. But just across the 16-acre site, another tower—4 World Trade Center—is rising just as fast, if not as tall.

The building is slated for completion at the end of 2013, and unlike One World Trade, it’s being constructed by a private developer, Larry Silverstein. View a slide show of the progress.