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MGM asks to implode troubled Harmon tower in Las Vegas

August 16, 2011|By Ashley Powers | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
(K.M. Cannon, Las Vegas Review-Journal )

Reporting from Las Vegas—The Harmon was envisioned as a 49-story gateway to CityCenter, a warren of luxury hotels and boutiques dreamed up during the Las Vegas Strip's go-go years. Instead, the Norman Foster building was lopped in half because of construction defects and a recession that snuffed out demand for its condo-hotel rooms.

Now the company in charge of the Harmon may scrap it altogether. MGM Resorts International asked county officials Monday to allow it to implode the tower, one of several monuments to the economy's nose dive on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Though the Strip has enjoyed an uptick in visitors, room rates and gaming revenue through June compared with the same period in 2010, national economic jitters could threaten a budding recovery.

Construction of the Harmon was halted after inspectors discovered problems with steel reinforcing bars in 2008. Other parts of the CityCenter complex opened in 2009.

MGM Resorts and general contractor Tutor Perini Corp. are engaged in a nasty legal fight over the gleaming blue tower. MGM Resorts claims construction was sloppy. Perini says the project was poorly designed. Because the stunted building is a key piece of evidence, neither side can touch it until various legal matters are resolved.

Last month, an engineer hired by MGM said in a report that a strong earthquake could fell the building, which stands between the Cosmopolitan resort and CityCenter's Crystals mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. Perini officials dismissed the report as a litigation ploy and said they were "100% confident" that the building was safe.

Clark County officials, who oversee the Strip, had told MGM Resorts to submit a plan by Monday to either fix or destroy the tower. The casino operator said it could take up to 18 months to figure out how to shore up the Harmon "if repair is even a possibility," and asked to implode it, though that would require the court's approval.

Perini officials retorted that MGM Resorts wanted to "avoid adding the Harmon as additional glut to its other vacant properties in CityCenter under the guise of 'public safety.' "

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