The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 16, 2014

On Vegas Strip, the Harmon tower set to fall -- with a whimper

LAS VEGAS — One by one, the grand old dames of the Strip outlived their charms — the Dunes, Stardust and Aladdin — and down they came, thanks to some well-rigged dynamite, in a booming flash of bravado and showmanship that became this city’s staple — the implosion.

But not the Harmon. The troubled hotel and condominium tower once envisioned as an anchor to the gleaming CityCenter complex will be dismantled slowly, tediously, floor by floor. In Sin City parlance, the flawed edifice is like an aspiring showgirl given the old vaudevillian hook before even stepping on stage.

Never opened, the half-built husk sits empty, shrink-wrapped in ads, kept intact as evidence in a high-stakes trial this fall to determine who’s responsible for the major design and construction defects experts say could topple the building in a major earthquake.

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has ordered that after opposing lawyers collect what evidence they can, the ill-fated project will be demolished. This time, the bitter end won’t come in a blaze of smoke and glory, but hidden from the gaze of curious eyes — a mistake the city wants to quickly forget.

“We don’t have a problem in Vegas with taking things down and building them anew. In fact, we’re known for it,” said Mark Hall-Patton, administrator of the Clark County Museum, which recently featured an exhibit of imploded casino hotels called “Lost Vegas.” “But the Harmon is something different.”

Like a boxer’s smile, the gleaming Strip has its gap teeth, the legacies of pricey projects gone bust. Amid the shining towers of chance are the reminders of economic failure, like the unfinished condo high-rise between the Venetian and the Palazzo resorts. The building went into mothballs during the recent economic slowdown and is now covered with a million-dollar tarp to make it look finished and inviting.

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