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Ruling Coming On Whether One World Trade Center Will Be Deemed Nation’s Tallest Building

One World Trade Center Is 325 Feet Taller If Spire Is Counted
One World Trade Center And Willis Tower

One World Trade Center in New York and the Willis Tower in Chicago. (Credit: Mary Altaffer-Pool/Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents of Chicago have already seen the Willis Tower stripped of its status as the world’s tallest building and its iconic name the Sears Tower, and some are in no hurry to concede the title of the nation’s tallest building to New York.

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat voted Friday on whether One World Trade Center will gain the title of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, or whether the Willis Tower will retain it. The decision is expected to be announced next week, CBS News reported.

One World Trade Center measures 1,368 feet from ground to roof. But the building’s architects say a decorative spire atop the building should be counted, and if it is it would be a birth-of-the-nation symbol standing 1,776 feet, or 325 feet taller than Chicago’s 1,451-foot Willis Tower, CBS News reported.

Council director Antony Wood said the decision will likely be contentious.

“We don’t expect pickets, but what I do expect is a very, very lively debate,” he told CBS News.

CBS News’ Dean Reynolds asked Jen Masengarb of the Chicago Architecture Foundation to find out if New York City would reclaim bragging rights.

“Willis Tower still is tallest in terms of how high you can stand above the earth, but when you look at sort of what’s totally built from the ground up, then One World Trade Center wins,” she said.

One World Trade Center architect David Childs told Reynolds winning is not the point. He wants his building recognized as standing 1,776 feet tall because of what that number represents.

“The height is important in that it symbolizes that moment our democracy – 1776 – can’t be much more important than that,” he said. “The thing about race for the height, that will always change. This one will always be 1,776. The governor, the Port Authority and America all felt strongly about that, and that’s why we’ve achieved that, and it’s important for it to be recognized as the height.”

New York claimed the tallest buildings in the world from 1908 until 1974.

The Singer Building at Liberty Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan – which was demolished in 1968 – was the first in that run to claim the title. It was followed by the Metropolitan Life Tower, the Woolworth Building, the Bank of America Trust Building, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Chicago’s Sears Tower — renamed the Willis Tower in 2009 — took the title of the tallest building in the world in 1973, but lost the title to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1996 — only because of a spire.

When some critics took issue with this criterion, the council altered its position to name three tallest buildings judged by different categories. The Petronas Towers won for the highest structural or architectural top, at 1,483 feet; the Sears Tower won for the highest roof, at 1,450 feet; and the north tower of the old World Trade Center won for the highest spire or antenna, at 1,728 feet – until the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Ultimately, Chicagoans’ gripes with the criteria for the world’s tallest building became moot, CBS Chicago recalled. Taipei 101 in Taipei overtook any existing building in 2004, and in 2010, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai became the tallest manmade structure ever built, at 2,723 feet.

And back in New York, the spire on top of One World Trade Center was test-lit for the first time. So far, the building is 50 percent leased by the Port Authority and the City of New York, CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported.

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