SHANGHAI, China — Noisy, grinding machinery and traffic snarled around dusty construction sites. These are common sights and sounds in China, as the world's second-largest economy builds rapidly into the sky.
China has constructed more skyscrapers than any other country every year for nearly a decade, according to the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. And the most iconic edifice in these transformed skylines is Shanghai Tower, a shiny column that spirals 128 floors and 632 meters into the clouds, making it China's tallest building, and the world's second-highest.
It's got plenty of bells and whistles, boasts the world's fastest elevators, a stunning observatory deck, and even notched top marks for green building by industry groups in the U.S. and China.
But Shanghai Tower reflects wider woes in China's commercial property market, as it has struggled to attract tenants since the last beam was placed on top three years ago. Experts say the challenge is that companies looking to cut costs amid a wider growth slowdown are now spoiled for choice.
"With more and more skyscrapers in Shanghai, in cities [in China], the vacancy will remain very high for some time," said Anny Zhang, head of Shanghai office leasing for Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the agents for Shanghai Tower.
The vacancy rates for prime office space in Shanghai spiked to 12 percent in the first quarter, according to JLL. And troubles in top tier cities, which attract a wide range of companies, could be compounded in smaller cities.
Entire floors of Shanghai Tower continue to sit empty, contributing to city vacancies. Part of the issue was due to a delay in obtaining fire safety permits, which only came through a few months ago. But a planned luxury hotel has yet to open and hallways remain deserted.