Court Approves Demolition of Foster + Partners' Harmon Hotel in Vegas

By Tony Illia
May 7, 2014
harmon hotel foster + partners
Photo © Bill Hughes
Demolition will begin this summer of Foster + Partners' unfinished Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas.

Foster + Partners’ Harmon Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is being razed without ever opening. Owner MGM Resorts International received court approval on April 22 to demolish the unfinished 27-floor, oval-shaped tower following a protracted legal battle with its contractor, Tutor Perini Corp., over building defects. The Harmon once figured prominently in the $8.5 billion CityCenter hotel-casino-entertainment complex that opened in December 2009. Today, it stands empty and half-built, its facade serving as a makeshift billboard.

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"CityCenter consulted with experts about the fastest and safest way to resolve public safety concerns created by the structural defect issues at the Harmon,'' said MGM spokesman Gordon Absher in a statement. "Based on their expert advice, CityCenter is recommending that the structure be demolished."

The Harmon will be dismantled piecemeal, floor-by-floor, over the next year. Demolition will cost $11.5 million, with work starting this summer. A Foster + Partners spokeswoman declined to comment for this article. And the Harmon has been removed from the firm's list of projects on its website. (New York-based AAI Architects Inc. was architect-of-record, with the Las Vegas office of Halcrow as structural engineer.)

Yet, the 47-story mixed-use tower broke ground in 2006 amid fanfare and great expectations. Plans had called for 207 luxury residences perched above a 400-room hotel, with a Mr. Chow’s restaurant and Frederick Fekkai salon, among other amenities. But, trouble surfaced in July 2008 when it was discovered that reinforcing steel was improperly installed on 15 building floors during construction. A third-party inspector, Monrovia, California-based Converse Consultants, had falsified 62 daily reports between March and July of 2008 stating that things were okay when they were not. The findings prompted a temporary project shut-down and eventual building redesign.

MGM, as a result, lopped the building in half in January 2009, shedding the condominiums, of which less than half had sold. The move saved $600 million in construction costs, while deferring another $200 million in fit-out expenses, aiding the cash-strapped project that finished during a deep recession.

The blue glass building, whose incomplete construction cost $279 million, has since become an untoward symbol of real estate boom excess gone bust. Its removal leaves a large gap in CityCenter’s 76-acre master-plan scheme, conceived by New York-based Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects. MGM has not announced any replacement plans for the soon to be vacant space.


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