Engineer spells out permanent repair plan for Harmon Hotel

An engineer hired by contractor Perini Building Co. on Monday began spelling ways to permanently repair the unfinished Harmon Hotel as testimony concerning demolition of the CityCenter property resumed after a four-month hiatus.

Steve Schiller, president of John A. Martin & Associates, said computer models show an earthquake could cause loads to shift back and forth across floors four through seven, placing an extraordinary stress on some walls. Reinforcing the Harmon at certain key points would alleviate this shear reversal hazard, he said at the hearing in Clark County District Court.

A formal written plan has not been placed on the record. After the hearing, CityCenter attorney Steve Morris said his clients had received a cost estimate from Perini of $20 million, of which the contractor would absorb $4 million because of construction defects. Perini’s plan places the bulk of the blame – and also repair costs – on CityCenter because of an alleged faulty design, Morris said.

CityCenter has long complained that while Perini maintains the building can be fixed, it has provided scant specifics – particularly the lack of a paper trail – detailing repairs it proposes.

“The design issues we were addressing are more significant than the construction issues,” Schiller said, adding that Perini executives had decided how to allocate financial responsibility.

The rest of the Harmon was strong enough to handle the demands on it, Schiller said.

Work halted on the hotel four years ago Monday, capping it at the 26th floor out of a planned 48. CityCenter, half owned by MGM Resorts International, contends it was forced to stop work by the Clark County Building Department because of code violations. Perini counters that the subsequent refusal to restart work was driven by financial troubles as the Las Vegas and national economies descended into recession. Dubai World owns the other half of CityCenter.

CityCenter wants to implode the Harmon at an estimated cost of $30 million. Its experts conclude that it could collapse in an earthquake.

Schiller, by contrast, said his analysis shows the building would survive an earthquake and poses no general safety hazard.

“That does not mean that the building would be repairable after an earthquake,” he said, citing the potential for significant damage.

Schiller reiterated his plan to prop up certain weak spots in the Harmon while its fate is being decided. Eight columns, bookended by metal plates called flapjacks, would be installed from the underside of the fourth floor to the subterranean. He estimated the price on this temporary fix at $2 million in March, although no figure was discussed in court Monday.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has set the target of the hearing, which could run at least two weeks, as determining whether “adequate observation, discovery and investigation” have taken place to allow demolition.

A jury trial in the case is set for late June 2013.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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