Twice-Told Tale

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Twice-Told Tale

Twice-Told Tale

I4 Eyesore

Julius Olavarria
(Above) “As I was driving into Orlando for the first time, I came through Altamonte Springs. My initial thought was that it was a fantastic example of an edge or satellite city, a whole new city center popping up orbiting Downtown Orlando,” explained Mr. Nathan Johnston. Viewers from out of state immediately noticed the skyscraper in the middle of a suburb. Why did they decide on that location?

The Majesty Building, commonly nicknamed the “I-4 Eyesore,” sits just past Maitland in Uptown Altamonte Springs, visible to thousands of commuters each day. For this marvel of 307 feet, with a promised 200,000 feet of office space, great expectations have pushed the building past the limits of critique. Irritated locals watched as construction began in 2001. As of 2024, these same annoyed residents still watch as the building sits and rots away, as nature slowly takes back control. The Majesty Building still isn’t completed and is one of the most cursed construction projects in the history of Florida, but the story of how it got to this point leaves Floridians in awe. 

When I first saw the I-4 Eyesore I mostly found it comical for there to be one skyscraper amongst rows of apartment buildings, but once I dug into the history of the building, I became fascinated,” says Mr. Nathan Johnston, last year’s AP Human and Geography teacher. Having moved to Florida in 2016, Mr. Johnston’s discovery of the Majesty’s history parallels his curriculum, so he’s taught the history of the building ever since. “Honestly I’m not sure we have a class in the social studies department where you couldn’t talk about it. Religion? Check. Tax questions? Check. Geography? Check. History (granted only 20 or so years worth)? Check. It is such an interesting phenomenon rich for discussion.” 

Construction in early 2001 proved very promising. Just like Lake Highland’s Porter Center for Innovation and Academics, projections for the Majesty inspired donors to give millions in support. They saw what could be. They thought a building of the caliber of the Majesty represented the future and was therefore a worthy investment. They wanted to leave their mark on the world, and this building would give that to investors. Little did they know, the person they trusted to lead the operation had other plans in mind. 

WACX, the Christian broadcasting station heading the project, started official fundraising in 1997. Claud Bowers, the man behind the Majesty, transitioned his radio company to a larger corporation during the 70s and 80s. The channel still broadcasts to this day, with fundraising efforts picking up in November of 2022, although unsuccessful in giving Christian listeners the building they desired. 

Bowers founded WACX and built it from the ground up. Through his hard work and determination, by the 70s, he was one of the top Christian broadcasters in the state. Listeners were captivated by his stories and on-air sermons, willing to fund such a large project with hopes of extending the reach of their religious values. The corporation kept buying more and more properties, as they gained more and more listeners, and with their “non-profit” title, they were tax-exempt. Business was booming.

Bowers’ salary, however, was more than non-profit. It was determined that he, along with his family and properties, qualified to file taxes. Bowers appealed this decision and argued that they didn’t take any funds from their viewers- only donations- but his argument failed. In a futile attempt, they moved their stations to Orange County to escape taxation but were ultimately unsuccessful. The trend was starting to make itself visible: the value Bowers placed on his income and earnings seemed to outweigh the religious mission, an unfortunate character flaw especially from a pastor so many adored. 

Fundraising picked up in order to account for the increased taxes that had to be paid. The idea to build this massive building struck Bowers in the late 1990s. Bowers quickly gained support, with contributions of over 5 million dollars- a huge amount for the initial fundraising- before 1996.

“As I was driving into Orlando for the first time, I came through Altamonte Springs. My initial thought was that it was a fantastic example of an edge or satellite city, a whole new city center popping up orbiting Downtown Orlando,” explained Mr. Johnston. Viewers from out of state immediately noticed the skyscraper in the middle of a suburb. Why did they decide on that location? Why did they choose to build it in an unpopulated area? 


During the late 1990s, Altamonte Springs showed promise. Bowers thought it would be a good place for an investment, and for about 1.1 million dollars, he bought the property on East Central Boulevard.  He had hopes that they could eventually build hotels and shopping centers, generating more revenue for the company. He also kept the Altamonte Mall in mind as the proximity could draw more customers from the area. However, the question remained- would these business ventures be for his company, spreading his religion, or for himself? 

Bowers  raised enough money for the project- over 13 million with 38 million in pledges- yet couldn’t complete construction in three years. During the initial construction campaign (2000-2004), he bought three houses, each around $300,000.00, with the rest of the money seemingly used for construction on the Majesty. How did the process fail to be completed, or even have a genuine start, within that time? The pledge money would have come through if there were signs of a building, but by 2003, there was nothing more than a hole in the ground. Donors dropped out because they knew something was amiss. They knew their money was going elsewhere. Unfortunately for the people who already donated their millions, their money was gone. How could the pastor they respected so much do this to them? 

There’s no explanation for this failure other than a lack of leadership. There was no other excuse for Bowers for his misuse of funds and greed; he could only apologize and admit his wrongs. Granted, it was more complicated than just one man ruining the operation, but Bowers deserved a majority of the blame. 

So what happened between 2000 and 2024? The project was delayed in 2000 because of “Y2K” celebrations, so they shot for a grand opening in 2002. In 2001, they dug a big hole in the ground, planting Bibles and gospel songbooks in the foundation of the building. In 2002 and 2003, construction continued, but locals noticed how slowly it progressed- many commented that the construction site looked abandoned most days. By 2004, however, the skeleton of the tower was built. They put glass on the exterior, but nothing was on the inside. It was only a shell, a casing, with no office space as Bowers had promised. 

After 2004, once the glass was placed on the concrete slabs, barely anything happened. The 38 million dollars that was pledged in support had already disappeared, with more and more people pulling out their donations and investments. Bowers and WACX, to this day, ask for money. Every year, they state that they only need “X million” to complete the project, summarize their progress for the building, and then ask victims to donate in a lengthy, complicated email. 

What’s crazy is that they took in over 75 million in airtime, with another 40 million in contributions recently. This gave them easily enough to finish the project, but they couldn’t grip the wheel and drive to the finish line. Electricity was installed in 2018, and between 2018 and 2021, 20 million dollars were invested in the project. Onlookers questioned where the money went, as the construction site between 2018 and up until COVID seemed, once again, abandoned. 

Of course, during COVID-19, construction didn’t continue. They framed COVID as the reason, and yes, it was a good excuse. But, for the past 20 years, all this project has been is excuses. They kept making up reasons, despite having enough money to complete the project, for the lack of progress. The donors who invested their hard-earned money into this project didn’t want excuses; they wanted results. Many took to the courts to get their donations back but failed. The lack of accountability for the failure of this project, and the lack of any signs of genuine effort to build this structure, were enough to pull investors out of the pot. 

Altamonte Springs could force them to finish, right? As long as there was work being done to the building, the company is allowed to keep the building there. The smallest construction changes still count as being, “Under construction,” so the project adheres to the city’s policy. This allows the building to remain unfinished without any time restrictions. 

By now, it’s evident that there’s something else at play here. Bowers, or WACX, has siphoned money used to construct the building. Bowers is incredibly wealthy. It is said with his money or donations, they can finish the building within the year. But, he won’t do that. It won’t get done. He will continue to stall the project, cheat the city’s code, and cheat his donors for the rest of his life. 

Even those having been born and raised in Florida, often never knew this story or the origins of the Majesty building.It’s more than just an “unfinished construction project” off of our Interstate. The Eyesore on I-4 symbolizes this cautionary tale, living proof that people may not always follow through with their promises. Trust comes at a price. There’s always a story behind stories, history written into the walls of slabs of concrete. What is often thought to be a magical building, with construction nearing an end, proved to be much more.

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