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Atlanta’s tallest skyscraper is slipping in national prominence

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New analysis of American cities’ sky-rise history and current status provides interesting context

The illuminated spire of Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza—the city’s tallest building for a quarter-century—still dominates the Midtown skyline.
The illuminated spire of Atlanta’s Bank of America Plaza—the city’s tallest building for a quarter-century—still dominates the Midtown skyline, but it’s being bypassed nationally.
Curbed Atlanta

First, the good news for urban architecture wonks: Atlanta’s long-cherished claim of having America’s tallest building in a capital city still holds true. (Take that, Springfield and Albany!)

But as for another timeworn boast—that Atlanta is (arguably) home to the country’s highest skyscraper outside of New York and Chicago—well, that’s ancient history.

Since last year, Los Angeles (Wilshire Grand Center), Philadelphia (Comcast Technology Center), and San Francisco (Salesforce Tower) have all erected buildings that stand higher than anything in Atlanta, although not by much. The tallest of the lot, Philly’s tower, technically stands just 98 feet over Atlanta’s 1,023-foot skyline highpoint.

That’s all just one takeaway from a recent Commercial Cafe analysis titled, “The Rise of the American Skyscraper—Current Building Boom Falls Short of the Prolific 1980s.”

It suggests that Atlanta, while firmly a southeastern skyline leader, might not count as many true skyscrapers—defined as 500 feet or more, with at least 40 stories—as some might think.

Atlanta, per the analysis, is one of 18 U.S. cities with at least five skyscrapers. And the Bank of America Plaza tower remains the 15th tallest in the country.

Midtown Atlanta, with downtown in the distance.
Curbed Atlanta

Per the findings, Atlanta counts 14 buildings—our in-house tally is more like 16, at least, with Icon Midtown joining the list this year—that stand at least 40 stories and 500 feet tall, which would put the Big Peach in the sky-poking company of Seattle, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

But that tally would pale in comparison to titans such as New York (252), Chicago (107), and condo-rich Miami (53), including under-construction projects, per the findings. (It also counted uninhabited structures like Las Vegas’s Stratosphere.)

Note: Other metrics list Houston’s tallest tower, built in 1981, as 1002-feet high, making it shorter than Atlanta’s.

It’s worth noting that Atlanta counts another 25 or so buildings that are just below the 500-foot threshold (more than 400 feet). Still, for all the ubiquitous construction around town, only four of those towers—Icon Midtown, Atlantic House, Loews Midtown, and Buckhead’s Three Alliance Center—have taken shape this decade.

Icon Buckhead and several Midtown projects and proposals could make the 400-foot-plus cut, at least, soon. So there’s that.

For more trivia and historical perspective, non-mobile users can explore the evolution of America’s skylines further with this interactive map: