Not a Special Effect: MGM Wants to Implode Norman Foster's Unfinished Vegas Hotel

Not a Special Effect: MGM Wants to Implode Norman Foster's Unfinished Vegas Hotel

On August 15MGM Resorts International announced that it submitted plans to Clark Countyseeking permission to demolish the unfinished HarmonTower, a Norman Foster-designed hotelin Las Vegas, dueto structural flaws.

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Their decision came from an assessment by a structural engineering firm thatfound "pervasive and varied" defects throughout the building that threaten public safety,according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Rather than explore the possibilityof repairing these defects, MGM decided that demolition would be the safestand most time- and cost-effective solution.  Implosion would take an estimated sixmonths of preparation, which entails safeguarding the surrounding buildings, followedby four months of debris removal. Alternatively, repairs to the building wouldtake years if they were possible at all.

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These findings bolster MGM's case to demolish the building, whichthey first expressed in 2010. As early as 2008, building inspectors have found a number of structural mistakes, including improperly placed steelreinforcement beams throughout the incomplete site. At that point the originalplans to build Harmon Tower as a 47-story building were cut to 27, though it isn't clear whether it was due to construction missteps or Las Vegas's dire real estate situation. Legal troubles ensuedbetween MGM and contractor, Perini Building Co., whichinsists it can repair the defects, and in 2010 called MGM's desire to demolish the building "publicity stunt," according to Architectural Record

"Perini agrees that the fastest way to end the dispute overresponsibility to repair MGM's design errors would be to blow up the buildingand destroy the evidence," the company recently wrote to theReview-Journal. "However, that would be far from the end of thedispute. MGM is seeking to implode the building to hide the fact that theHarmon is not a threat to public safety and to avoid having the repairs madethat Perini and its third-party structural engineers have offered todo." 

The empty hotel currently serves as a place to post billboards at the north end ofthe CityCenter, an $8.5 billion commercial and residential complex that openedin 2009, one of the worst periods in LasVegas real estate.