CityCenter’s unfinished Harmon Hotel will once again come alive, perhaps this week, to the sound of construction workers armed with hammers and chisels chipping away structural concrete as legal teams gather evidence for an upcoming trial.
But in doing so, CityCenter and former general contractor Tutor Perini Building Corp. had to execute at least a partial reversal of their previous positions in the massive construction-defects litigation.
For a large part of last year, CityCenter argued for court permission to demolish the building as a safety hazard after its experts predicted that it could partially or completely collapse during a serious earthquake. Now, CityCenter says that its program of destructive testing, chipping away concrete beams to reveal the steel reinforcing bars inside, will not cause any safety problems because of the limited scope of the work and constant supervision by engineers.
Tutor Perini, at a Monday hearing in Clark County District Court, instead adopted the safety mantle in its bid to stop or limit the testing. What it described in court papers as “the
vast amount of additional destructive testing” could destabilize the 26-story shell beyond repair.
Last year, Tutor Perini argued that the Harmon was not a problem in its current condition and should not be razed prior to a jury trial, now scheduled to start in January.
Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez gave the go-ahead for the testing, provided CityCenter gave its work schedule to Tutor Perini and the other contractors in the case, plus comply with a permit from the Clark County Building Department and any conditions attached.
CityCenter attorney Mark Ferrario said crews were supposed to start Monday “putting red tape all over the building” to mark the 481 test locations. Chipping away concrete is supposed to start Thursday, although Ferrario said it could take a few days to organize the process well enough to hit the goal of 40 sites a day.
At stake is how much CityCenter can win in damages. CityCenter has claimed that the Harmon was so shoddily constructed that it is now useless and the company should be entitled to a full refund of what it spent on it plus some other charges, perhaps exceeding $300 million.
Gonzalez ruled that previous rounds of destructive testing did not meet the legal standards to form the base for extrapolating how much of the building was badly built. This meant CityCenter could recover money only for the places tested, or about one-fourth of the critical structural elements.
Perini has contended throughout the case that the Harmon could be fixed for about $20 million, but that most of the problems, such as poorly placed reinforcing bars, resulted from bad blueprints provided by CityCenter.
Ferrario said seven two-person teams would fan out inside the Harmon to conduct the testing, knocking away about 4 square feet of concrete on each spot and going about 3 inches deep.
Tutor Perini raised the fear that even this could weaken the pillars and potentially damage the reinforcing bars.
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5290.