The hearing over what should be done with the Harmon Hotel, a Las Vegas hotel project half owned by Dubai World and at the centre allegations of construction defects, began on Monday.
Construction on the $8.5bn project, co-owned by MGM Resorts International and Dubai World, ground to a halt four years ago after county inspectors discovered improper installation of critical steel reinforcements (rebar) after 15 storeys of the building had already been constructed.
The halt promoted a project redesign, reducing the height of the building from 49 to 28 storeys but the project has also faced further complications over buyer refunds, cancellations and other issues.
Last year, Clark County Building Division raised concerns that numerous building code defects could cause the 26-floor building to collapse in an earthquake. Last August, a CityCentre study concluded that demolition made more sense than repair.
Las Vegas has a penchant for demolition by explosion: the former Howard Hughes owned New Frontier was destroyed by controlled explosions on Nov. 13, 2007, while the site the CityCentre complex sits on now was home to the Boardwalk hotel, itself cleared by explosives experts in 2006. More than a dozen hotels and casinos have been imploded by city officials over the past two decades.
According to a report carried by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, lawyers for a couple of the contractors on the project in the CityCentre want the building to stand at least until a broader trial over construction defects and determining financial responsibility begins in February.
“If this building (Harmon) falls, it will travel around the world,” said Jeffery Garofalo, representing Ceco Concrete Construction, referring to the expected news coverage. “It may poison the jury pool and be highly prejudicial” because so many people would associate the Harmon with horrible contractor performance.
Contractors are expected to produce expert witnesses who will state that computer modeling that prompted earthquake concerns was riddled with flaws. Perini Building Co. Inc., the general contractor, has offered in the past to repair the Harmon as the best solution.