Stardust. Desert Inn. New Frontier. Dunes. All famed Las Vegas casinos, all imploded in spectacular fashion.
Add a property to this list of dynamite and destruction: Gramercy.
It’s not a casino, and it’s nowhere near the Strip, but the Gramercy’s partially built, nine-story residential tower will be laced with explosives and imploded next month.
The show starts — and finishes — at 8 a.m. Feb. 15.
The Gramercy, formerly known as ManhattanWest, was mothballed during the recession by developer Alex Edelstein, who reportedly spent $170 million on the stylish, 20-acre mixed-use project before lenders yanked his funding. He sold it for just $20 million in 2013, after the abandoned property sat for years as a visible scar of the building bust.
The new owners — San Francisco-based Krausz Companies and Las Vegas’ WGH Partners — resumed work about a year ago on the project on Russell Road at the 215 Beltway. Today, construction is almost finished on much of it. Developers have leased space in the Gramercy’s two office buildings, signed eateries for ground-floor retail and are gearing up to rent units in the two four-story residential buildings.
Las Vegas was a hot spot for implosions in the 1990s and 2000s, with casinos toppling up and down the Strip.
Those days are largely gone — but not entirely.
Besides the Gramercy’s nine-story residential tower, which is slated to be imploded next month, at least one other building locally is poised to meet that fate.
The Clarion, a shuttered 12-story, 200-room hotel on Convention Center Drive just off the north Strip, is scheduled to be imploded Feb. 10.
Here’s a rundown of explosive demolitions in recent years, courtesy of Clark County government spokesman Dan Kulin:
• Mohave Generating Station boilers — June 8, 2012
• O’Sheas parking garage — May 1, 2012
• Mohave Generating Station smokestack — March 11, 2011
• The Tropicana’s old wing — Nov. 9, 2010
• The New Frontier — Nov. 13, 2007
• The Stardust — March 13, 2007
The tower facing the Beltway, however, has remained largely untouched.
Developers mulled over several options, from finishing construction to wrapping the tower to make it look finished, as Las Vegas Sands Corp. did on the Strip with a mothballed condo tower. But a few weeks ago, the Gramercy’s owners decided it had to go.
With its floors and guts exposed to passers-by, the tower looks like a crumbling property in a war-torn country, potentially scaring off renters. What's more, vandals ripped out copper wiring and smashed exterior glass panels after Edelstein halted construction.
“We have this building that looks like Beirut (in) a beautiful project. What are you going to tell your residents? They’re worried about it,” said Jay Krigsman, executive vice president and asset manager at Krausz.
Among other concerns, it would have “cost a fortune” to get the building up to code, Krigsman said. The developers also don’t like the tower’s interior layout and blue-glass exterior — “It looks like an office building,” Krigsman said — and feel the tower gets in the way of the rest of the project, in terms of traffic flow and the atmosphere they want to create.
They envision the Gramercy as a high-density “urban village” with food trucks, outdoor movies and well-heeled 20- and 30-somethings who want to go out and have a good time after work.
“It didn’t fit,” Krigsman said.
The developers haven’t finalized what they’ll do next but “definitely” plan to build more residential space and possibly more commercial, he said.
To prepare for the implosion, work crews on Thursday were gutting the tower as tangled heaps of drywall, insulation and metal framing hung from the floors outside the building, with large piles on the ground.
"It looks like it threw up," Krigsman said.
The decision to tear it down is no surprise. A few months ago, WGH partner Benjy Garfinkle said the developers had cleaned the tower, finished design work and obtained permits to restart construction but were considering toppling it.
By the beginning of this year, Garfinkle said, the tower would either be under construction or gone — but added that finishing it was “probably not on the top of the list” of their options.
The developers initially decided to take it down piece-by-piece, a months-long process. Work crews started jackhammering the top floor last week.
They didn’t get any noise complaints, but the hammering could be heard several blocks away, and the owners worried it would annoy existing office tenants and scare off apartment hunters, Krigsman said.
So they opted to detonate it. The implosion and removal process will cost about $1.1 million to $1.2 million. That’s roughly $100,000 more than removing the tower by hand, but it will all be over in seconds.
And, if this job is anything like the famous casino implosions of the 1990s and 2000s, when mid-century hotels were torn down to clear space for flashy, supersized resorts, it should be quite a show.
Back then, implosions were parties of sorts, with big crowds that whistled and cheered when buildings came down and kicked up plumes of dust and debris. There were even fireworks before the Stardust was toppled.
Jeff Kroeker was in town when casino mogul Steve Wynn imploded the Dunes in 1993 to build the Bellagio. Wynn had a pyrotechnics show, shooting flames in the air and torching the hotel in a ball of fire before the resort went down. (“Ready, aim, fire!” Wynn said over a loudspeaker before the flames erupted.)
“They made a big party atmosphere out of it,” Kroeker said.
Kroeker’s family owns a demolition and recycling business in Fresno, Calif., but he was in Las Vegas to watch, not to work. He was in a parking lot at Bally’s across the street, and when the Dunes was imploded, “it was like a stampede” of people rushing into Bally’s to take cover from the dust, he said.
The Gramercy's owners aren't planning a big party but haven't ruled it out.
"If we change our mind, I'll let you know," Krigsman said. "It's a good idea, actually."