Demolition of flawed tower at CityCenter delayed again

The Harmon Hotel at CityCenter sits unfinished with the Veer Towers seen in the background on July 29, 2011.

A judge has further delayed demolition of the Harmon Tower to allow the company behind its insurance policy to provide an update on its investigation of CityCenter’s $393.8 million claim that the hotel is a total loss.

The Harmon was once slated to be the 48-story centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter, which opened in December 2009. But developers topped off the tower at 26 stories after inspectors discovered flaws in the steel rebar running through its concrete.

In a hearing today, Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed approving a demolition plan a week to give FM Global — the company that wrote the insurance policy covering the Harmon’s construction — a chance to send her a letter with the update.

If she does not receive a letter, Gonzalez said, she will determine if CityCenter owners MGM Resorts International and Dubai World can proceed with dismantling the Harmon floor by floor. Original demolition plans included an implosion.

Gonzalez originally approved plans on Aug. 23 to raze the tower but withdrew them in November. Her decision followed the heels of a request by FM Global to open its own investigation into CityCenter’s massive claim.

CityCenter attorney Mark Ferario said CityCenter would fully cooperate with FM Global’s investigation if it needs more time in the building. But the demolition of Harmon needs to happen sooner than later, he argued, because of safety concerns.

Experts released a report saying the Harmon could collapse in strong earthquake, which has a 50 percent chance of happening in the next 30 years.

“We have a building out there that, without dispute, is in trouble,” Ferario said. “The demolition will take time. That time will enable FM to complete whatever work they want to do.”

Before demolition crews can dismantle the building, they have to strip the building of its glass casing, a process that could take 60 days. That’s enough time, Ferario said, for FM to get whatever information it needs to complete its probe.

The Harmon Tower is the centerpiece of a lawsuit in which developers are battling Tutor Perini Building Co. to determine who’s at fault for the tower's problems.

Perini attorney George Ogilvie, who argued against tearing down the building, said CityCenter officials could have spent $20 million to install anchors to support the building’s weak structure.

“It’s been two and a half years,” Ogilvie said. “CityCenter has done nothing.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.