Whoops! One World Trade Center May Not Be America’s Tallest Building

A change in the tower's 400-ft. spire opened debate over the building's height

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Gary Hershorn / Reuters

A woman looks out at New York's Lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center from inside the 9/11 Empty Sky memorial at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2013.

The new World Trade Center tower was designed to be the tallest in the country, a symbolic 1776-foot marker of American resilience.

But the developer decided to nix the decorative mast that would have accounted for more than 400 feet, saying it would have been impossible to maintain. Instead, the nearly-completed building has a mostly-bare broadcast antenna that reaches the 1,776-foot goal—but may or may not be counted in the building’s official height.

A committee of architects met behind closed doors Friday to decide whether the design change will impact the official measure of the building’s height. Without the mast, the tower reaches 1,368 feet, the same height as the original World Trade Center towers but below Chicago’s 1,450-foot Willis Tower (not including its antenna), formerly known as the Sears Tower.

The architecture firm behind One World Trade Center says the needle will still have an array of equipment, including a communications platform for radio and televisions and an LED beacon with a blaze visible up to 50 miles away.

Daniel Safarik, an architect and spokesman for the nonprofit Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, told the Associated Press the 30-member Height Committee may decide to alter its measuring criteria—potentially impacting rankings around the world. The committee will announce its decision next week.

“Most of the time these decisions are not so controversial,” Safarik said.