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Las Vegas CityCenter's Harmon Hotel tower, may be razed before it ever opens

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The days of the Harmon Hotel tower in Las Vegas may be numbered -- even
before the hotel welcomes a single guest. Begun during the Las Vegas
high-rise condo boom, the hotel tower -- first proposed as a 49-story
mixed-use condo and hotel project -- is an empty, if flashy, shell that its
owner, MGM Resorts International, seeks to demolish.

The building's downfall has been blamed on massive construction defects and
the market downturn. MGM and the building's general contractor, Perini
Building Co., are embroiled in litigation over the building's problems --
and the outcome may ultimately decide its fate.

Originally conceived as a 400-room nongaming tower with just over 200
residential condo units, the Harmon was part of the larger CityCenter
development on the Las Vegas Strip.

When MGM put the planned condo units on the market in early 2008, buyers --
mostly owner-occupants -- put down 20 percent deposits on nearly half of the
units within a two-month period, said Robert Hamrick, who served from
January 2006 to March 2011 as senior vice president and broker at CityCenter
Realty Corp. He is currently chairman and CEO of Coldwell Banker Premier
Realty in Las Vegas.

"It was a very emotional building. The physicality of it, (the) appearance,
the architecture. It was going to be a very high-end luxury building, kind
of appealing to the nouveau riche, perhaps. Upscale, classy and a somewhat
young environment," Hamrick said.

But structural defects were discovered in the building, and in January 2009
MGM announced that the Harmon's finished size would be cut down to 28
stories, from the 49 stories originally slated. This eliminated the planned
condo units entirely. Perini finished the Harmon's core and shell in
December 2009.

The building currently sits unfinished as MGM and Perini debate the extent
of construction defects in the courts. Neither MGM or Perini responded to
requests for comment by publication time.

According to a July engineering report, repair of the building may not be
possible, and if it is, it could take up to three years to fix from start to

The Perini company fired back in a statement that "MGM is seeking to implode
the building to hide the fact that the Harmon is not a threat to public
safety and to avoid having the repairs made that Perini and its third-party
structural engineers have offered to do."

Perini also accused MGM of "buyer's remorse" due to the downturn of the real
estate market. "MGM is now attempting to blow up the Harmon to avoid adding
the Harmon as additional glut to its other vacant properties in CityCenter
under the guise of 'public safety,'" the company charged.

The proposed plan is subject to approval from the county's building
department. If approved, MGM would also seek to lift a court order that
prevent alteration or destruction of the building while the litigation with
Perini is unresolved. There have been at least a dozen buildings imploded in
Las Vegas since 1993, five of them since 2006, according to an implosions
page on travel website The most recent was the New Frontier
hotel, the second-oldest hotel on the strip at the time, on November 13,
2007. On May 9, 2006, the precursor to CityCenter, the Boardwalk hotel, was
imploded to make way for the new development.

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