Judge Gives Okay to Raze Flawed Tower

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Nevada state judge gave the go-ahead Thursday
for casino giant MGM Resorts International to implode a flawed
hotel tower that was partially built but never opened as the
centerpiece of the glittering $8.5 billion CityCenter project on
the Las Vegas Strip.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez's pretrial
ruling sounded a death knell for the 26-story Harmon Hotel before
trial next year in a massive construction defect case involving
project general contractor Tutor Perini Corp. and resort owner MGM
Resorts.

But it doesn't mean immediate demolition.

Attorney George Ogilvie, representing Perini, said outside court
that he'll appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The high court is the only appellate court in the state, and it
could take months to rule. Meanwhile, Gonzalez scheduled additional
pretrial hearings next week.

"Essentially, your honor, MGM wants a do-over at Perini's
expense," Ogilvie protested prior to Gonzalez's order. The ruling
came after the judge said she'd heard enough after three days of
testimony to decide from the bench whether the building should
stand or fall.

Ogilvie argued that demolishing the tower will forever prevent a
civil court jury expected to hear a nearly $500 million
construction defect case next summer from viewing work that was
completed. Ogilvie also said it would leave the impression that the
building was demolished because it was unsafe.

"Allowing MGM to demolish that building is allowing MGM to bury
its mistakes," he said.

The judge said she'll tell jurors that the demolition was a
business decision by MGM Resorts, not an acknowledgement that the
building was badly built.

MGM Resorts officials point to a determination by Clark County
officials last year that the building as it stands is an earthquake
safety risk.

The company issued a statement Thursday saying approval to
demolish the structure only means spending another $30 million "to
demolish a defect-riddled building that we spent $275 million to
construct."

"When Clark County demanded that CityCenter abate the potential
hazard created by faulty construction at the Harmon, we determined
that demolition is the surest, safest and fastest way to do so,"
the statement said.

Perini and other contractors challenged the safety finding. They
called witnesses this week to testify that repairs could be made at
a cost of about $20 million.

Perini and several other contractors allege in a lawsuit filed
in 2010 that designs for the blue, glass cylindrical tower were
faulty.

CityCenter filed a construction defect counterclaim accusing
Perini and contractors of shoddy work.

At 49 stories, the Harmon was designed to add a notch to the Las
Vegas Strip skyline. It was cut short when inspectors in 2008 found
flaws in the steel reinforcements built into lower floors.

The building today sits empty and festooned with massive
advertisements at the Las Vegas Strip entrance of the
master-planned complex, which opened in December 2009.

The surrounding 67-acre development includes the glassy Aria,
Veer, Vdara and Mandarin Oriental hotel towers, a casino and the
upscale Crystals shopping and restaurant complex. It is co-owned by
MGM Resorts and Dubai World.


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