POSTED: 10:11 a.m. HST, Dec 07, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 10:12 a.m. HST, Dec 07, 2013
VEGAS » A judge says she will OK plans for owners of the CityCenter development to demolish a flawed, half-built hotel tower on the Las Vegas Strip, unless insurers can show they need more time to investigate.
At a Friday hearing, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez said she would give insurer FM Global one week to explain its need to delay the demolition of the Harmon Tower.
FM Global wrote the insurance policy covering the Harmon's construction and is investigating CityCenter's $393.8 million claim for a total loss.
Gonzalez will hold another hearing Dec. 13 to determine how much more time, if any, to give FM Global.
CityCenter is operated and half-owned by MGM Resorts International.
The Harmon was supposed to be a 48-story component of the glittery $8.5 billion CityCenter project that opened in December 2009. But inspectors found flaws in the steel reinforcements used in the concrete structure, and tower construction was frozen at 26 stories.
On Friday, CityCenter attorney Mark Ferrario said the insurance company would be able to conduct months of tests while the casino strips the Harmon Tower of all of its glass, the first step of the story-by-story demolition.
He said the building poses a safety risk, and must be taken down as soon as possible.
"We have a non-code-compliant structure sitting on the Las Vegas Strip," he said.
CityCenter's consultants have said that the building could collapse in a strong earthquake — one that has a 50 percent chance of happening in the next 30 years.
Casino executives have been eager to destroy the building and put something profitable in its place. Ferrario argued that project general contractor Tudor Perini Building Corp. is trying to stall the demolition of the building until the two parties go to trial to determine how much money is owed.
Perini's attorneys argued that if CityCenter was so concerned about safety, it would have done more to earthquake-proof the empty building.
"It hasn't done anything in two and a half years to provide for the safety that it is suddenly so concerned about," Perini attorney George Ogilvie said.
Gonzalez approved the demolition over the summer, but withdrew that approval in November at the request of FM Global.
On Friday, she warned Perini that she would rule in favor of CityCenter next Friday unless she receives a letter explaining the need for further delay.
During parts of the three-hour hearing, she seemed to be growing weary of ruling on the same question, navigating the arguments of two teams of high-powered lawyers.
"Either the investigation of the Harmon is complete, or the investigation of the Harmon is incomplete. There are only two choices," she said.