CityCenter back in court seeking OK to demolish Harmon tower

A view of the Harmon at MGM’s CityCenter looking westbound from a helicopter Monday, May 21, 2012.

Four years after Clark County building inspectors issued corrective-action and stop-work orders at the Harmon on the Las Vegas Strip, the hotel’s owner is back in court seeking permission to demolish it.

After a four-month recess, testimony resumed Monday in Clark County District Court in a hearing on whether CityCenter can demolish the hotel prior to a trial planned for next year in a lawsuit over Harmon design and construction defects and unpaid Harmon construction invoices.

CityCenter, half owned and managed by casino resort giant MGM Resorts International, has made it clear the Harmon at some point will be demolished.

That means the issue at hand is whether CityCenter can proceed now with demolition or whether the 26-story hotel will remain standing to be used as evidence in the June 2013 trial over defects and some $186 million CityCenter has refused to pay certain contractors and subcontractors because of the defective work.

CityCenter says it has been ordered by Clark County to abate a public safety hazard posed by the Harmon, which some engineers feel could collapse in a strong earthquake — a contention disputed by other engineers.

CityCenter insists the best way to deal with the hazard is to take down the tower rather than giving contractors a chance to repair and shore up the building.

CityCenter won an initial legal victory Monday when Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled on when an issue involving jurors can be litigated.

The issue is whether jurors in next year’s trial might be influenced by a demolition of the Harmon. Contractors fear jurors would be biased against them if the $279 million structure is demolished, because jurors may feel there was a good reason it was taken down. They want to continue making that argument during the current hearing.

“Allowing CityCenter to implode the Harmon will irreparably taint the jury pool,” George Ogilvie, attorney for general contractor Perini Building Co., told Gonzalez.

But Gonzalez said she won’t consider that issue during the current hearing, which is focusing on whether adequate examination and testing of the Harmon have been conducted.

“At some point in time it (litigating the juror issue) may be appropriate,” Gonzalez said. “The fact that there may be issues related to a later motion to change venue or issues related to a significant jury questionnaire related to media coverage (of a demolition) — we’ll address it at that time..”

The hearing on whether the demolition can proceed sooner rather than later is expected to include testimony picking up from March featuring dueling engineers and statisticians testifying about whether the Harmon is safe, can be repaired and has been adequately analyzed.

Gonzalez has set nine days of hearings on the demolition issue through July 27; it’s unknown if attorneys will be able to wrap up their cases sooner.

Lawsuit records show that between July and September 2008, Clark County inspectors issued numerous notices of violation to CityCenter regarding the Harmon after it was discovered that in several instances reinforcing steel called rebar was either missing or improperly installed and wasn’t properly tied together.

Some of these notices involved temporary suspensions of work and stop-work orders on parts of the building while engineers devised repairs.

In response, CityCenter initially reduced the height of what would have been a boutique hotel and condominium tower from 47 stories to 26 stories and continued construction.

But it later halted all work when additional problems were found, including overstressed link beams, problems with walls and the inability of the building to properly distribute forces created by an earthquake.

Perini insists the building can be fixed and blames many of the problems on CityCenter design errors. Perini claims CityCenter just wants to get rid of a building it can’t use in the current economic environment.

Today, the building sits unfinished and unoccupied.



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Discussion 5 comments

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  1. Nv fisherman,

    Perini wasn't responsible, it was the subcontractor that installed wrong, followed by the third party inspectors that signed off, CCBD inspectors have to sign off as well. It was Perini that noticed it and halted construction, they should be applauded.

    Get some construction knowledge before you blast a company...

  2. The Harmon could have and should have been taken down years ago. Everyone knows it's structurally unsound. To do more investigating is only delaying the inevitable.

    CityCenter is not an ideal fit for Vegas. It's a pretty building but it stands for nothing. Visitors want outlandish and atypical, not this boring office park complex. Dubai should have taken it.

  3. Matt--
    I beg to differ with you. I am of the opinion that Perini, as the prime contractor, was and is entirely responsible for this (and many more) fiascos at City Center.

  4. Who in their right mind would buy into such a development with such a negative history? The best thing to do is scrap the project , rebuild from the begining and prove to the buying public that the NEW building is worth the price.

  5. I have participated in numerous construction defect lawsuits (for both the plaintiff and defense). Not one time did we ever adjourn from court and go to the site of the defect. Pictures, documentation and reports from experts are what is dealt with in court. This is really a feeble attempt by the Harmon Towers to keep their eyesore standing, in hopes that someone is stupid enough to rule to allow the final product to stand without demolition. IS a POS, both the private inspectors AND Clark County Development Services are equally culpable in this fiasco. Building is poorly constructed and needs to be razed.......