Vegas Is Tearing Down the Empty Hotel That Never Opened
If you've visited
The building in question is-or was supposed to be-the Harmon Hotel, one of the eight properties that make up CityCenter, the $8.5 billion entertainment complex that opened in 2009. CityCenter offered the antithesis of the Strip's spectacle: There was only one casino in the entire complex, it was LEED-certified design, there was no pseudo-European theme. The buildings were designed by and populated with works from some of the biggest names in
Partly because of that hefty price tag, CityCenter was also plagued with problems. It opened in the depths of the recession in December of 2009, when Vegas was suffering from a 14 percent unemployment rate. The project itself teetered on bankruptcy until a Hail Mary investment from a Dubai-based developer allowed the crews to finish construction.
Well, almost every building got finished: The Harmon never quite made it.
My photos of the almost-completed (or so we thought) Harmon Hotel in 2009
The Harmon was designed by British architect
So why tear it down now? Although MGM Resorts (which owns CityCenter) had announced its plans to demolish the hotel as far back as 2010, and the county approved the razing request last year, the developers have been embroiled in legal battles as well as disputes about the best way to take the hotel down. Don't expect a huge Vegas-style implosion. According to Architectural Record , The Harmon will be dismantled floor-by-floor over the next year. The demolition will cost $11.5 million.
I remember visiting CityCenter for the opening in 2009, and even with all the glitz and fanfare, it was unsettling to see the most visible portion of the complex looming above, unfinished. But it wasn't that unusual, as I would come to discover. The real estate boom meant that developers flooded the city with rooms, leading to accusations that hoteliers were overbuilding the market. The following recession was paired with a spike in construction costs and many ambitious developments could never scrape together the cash to get the job done. Vegas remains filled with plenty of empty, incomplete structures-you can count the motionless cranes from your hotel room.
The confident Cosmopolitan with the lopped-off Harmon next door. Photo by Cygnusloop99
But I think, especially in the Harmon's case, the biggest threat was right next door. I remember touring around the Harmon and hearing the buzzy PR-speak about how this would be the sleek, exclusive boutique hotel that would change the Strip-all while I was intrigued by an interesting building I was watching going up on the adjacent parcel. Breathing onto the back of the Harmon's unfinished neck was another slender, blue-glass tower that soared to the full height the Harmon was once supposed to achieve. It was similar in looks but even more similar in spirit: The Cosmopolitan was also an urban-themed, design-focused hotel.
Five years later, The Cosmopolitan has managed to not only steal the spotlight from the Harmon, it has cultivated a personality and following that the bland CityCenter properties-for all their star power-never managed to attain. The Harmon was doomed early on by its faulty rebar, but perhaps its ultra-successful neighbor was the real kiss of death. [ ArchRecord ]
Top image by Mikerussell