Coming down: MGM begins dismantling Harmon Hotel

The unfinished Harmon is coming down.

But there won’t be a middle-of-the-night implosion that has become a Las Vegas tradition.

MGM Resorts International has begun the year-long process of demolishing the only portion of the $8.5 billion, 67-acre CityCenter development that was never completed.

The Harmon Hotel was once considered the front door to the Strip complex of five high-rise buildings.

Instead, work halted on the Harmon after construction defects were found in 2008. Eventually the building was deemed structurally unsound.

The planned 47-story tower, which was stopped at 26 floors, became the centerpiece of a massive legal dispute between MGM Resorts and CityCenter partner Dubai World with Tudor Perini Building Co., the general contractor on the complex, over responsibility for $400 million in damage claims associated with the Harmon.

Instead of blowing the building up in grand fashion, contractors hired by MGM Resorts are now removing scrap metal and other materials from the building, along with taking off the blue-tinged glass that has covered the structure for the last five years.

The process also includes installing pedestrian protection systems outside the structure above adjacent sidewalks and walkways.

In the next few weeks, a construction crane will be erected to remove the building piece by piece.

“The pedestrian bridges will remain open to allow the free flow of traffic through the process,” said MGM Resorts spokesman Gordon Absher. “The street-level sidewalk in front of Harmon has been closed.”

Total cost of the demolition, being paid for by CityCenter, is expected to be $11.5 million.

The Harmon is next to the Crystals retail complex and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Originally, MGM Resorts had planned to finish the Harmon, topping off the building at a little more than half of the originally planned size and canceling condominiums that were to be the top floors of the hotel tower.

The building was essentially a hollow shell but the outside was finished, rendering the Harmon a giant billboard for advertising CityCenter attractions.

A structural engineer hired by MGM Resorts, however, said the building was unsafe and could topple if an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.7 were to hit Las Vegas.

However, Tutor Perini had contended that the building was fundamentally safe and could be repaired to meet all building code standards. The company estimated that it would cost $21 million to fix all the problems.

The company also didn’t want to lose what it deemed to be the key piece of evidence in its lawsuit with MGM and Dubai World, which is expected to go to trial in Clark County District Court in September.

In April 2013, however, structural experts hired by Tutor Perini told the Clark County Building Department the destructive testing on the Harmon, including concrete removal, made the building unrepairable and unsafe to the public.

Tutor Perini decided not to stand in the way of the demolition and Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez signed off on the demolition plan May 5.

Union Gaming Group analyst Robert Shore told investors he didn’t believe the Harmon would be used for another hotel.

“Seemingly it could be used as part of MGM’s plan for more inviting outdoor Las Vegas Strip space for food and beverage outlets, more inviting property access points, and other nongaming amenities,” Shore said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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