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April 19, 2014

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County wants proof CityCenter structures are free of defects

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Steve Marcus

MGM Mirage’s $9 billion Strip-side CityCenter project, encompassing seven buildings, continues rising Thursday across Interstate 15 from Panorama Towers.

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There's no evidence of building defects in other CityCenter towers, but one Vdara condominium investor wonders, "Am I buying a lemon?"

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A spokesman for MGM Mirage says new inspection efforts should prove CityCenter is structurally safe.

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CityCenter Construction

MGM Mirage's $9 billion CityCenter project, encompassing seven buildings, continues rising Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Clark County has ordered MGM Mirage to verify that CityCenter’s towers are structurally sound.

The order, in a letter Monday from Development Services Director Ron Lynn to MGM Mirage Vice President Bill Ham, came six months after significant structural defects were found at the Harmon, one of seven buildings simultaneously rising at the company’s $9 billion project.

After the engineer of record on the project raised concerns, the county determined that 15 floors of reinforcing steel at the Harmon had been improperly installed by subcontractor Pacific Coast Steel, which is overseen by CityCenter general contractor Perini Building Co.

The problems were repeatedly missed by third-party private inspector Converse Consultants, hired by MGM Mirage to ensure the complicated tasks were properly executed.

Though the inspectors employed by Converse Consultants — Scott Edberg and Joseph Glenn Laurente — had not worked on any other CityCenter buildings, the county nonetheless wants MGM Mirage to reassure the public that all parts of the project inspected by the firm are free of structural problems.

Converse is performing the bulk of the private inspection work at CityCenter. The county’s Development Services Department oversees the work of such third-party inspectors.

“At this point in time we have no reason to think that there’s an issue at any other parts of CityCenter,” said Assistant County Manager Phil Rosenquist. “We just want to be sure.”

Neither Edberg, Laurente, nor a representative of Converse could be reached for comment.

As a result of the delays and cost overruns caused by the rebar problems, MGM Mirage announced last month that it would shorten the Harmon by 21 floors by removing the 200 condo units that were to top the building.

The county is requiring that a third-party private inspection company other than Converse inspect the other CityCenter structures that were overseen by Converse. The county’s building inspectors lack the expertise to do the work, county spokesman Dan Kulin said.

MGM Mirage has three weeks to submit for county approval a plan from the engineer of record detailing how inspectors will test reinforcing steel and certain welds and bolting. Any problems will require review by the engineer of record and “possible remediation” in addition to more extensive testing within the structure, the letter states.

Converse Consultants is a national firm that provides environmental and construction engineering and inspection services. It has the contracts to conduct third-party inspections at all parts of CityCenter other than Veer and the mechanical plant, which are overseen by other companies.

Edberg and Laurente had issued 62 reports stating that the rebar at the Harmon was to code, Rosenquist said. Two Development Services employees monitoring roughly 50 private inspectors at CityCenter also did not catch the problems.

Edberg and Laurente have been removed from CityCenter, but other Converse consultants have remained — and are still at the Harmon. That’s because county code doesn’t allow builders to fire third-party inspectors because it could create conflicts of interest, MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said.

Absher said the new inspection efforts should reassure the public that buildings at CityCenter are sound.

For Steve Pharar, of Diamond Bar, Calif., who had reserved two units at Vdara, news of rebar problems at the Harmon added to anxiety over his investments.

“Am I buying a lemon?” Pharar said. “If there was any kind of lax monitoring, is this something susceptible to more issues?”

Luxury condo agent Aaron Auxier said he has heard some mild concerns from Veer clients after reports of construction problems with that CityCenter building. The problems at Veer were caught by another third-party inspection company at CityCenter, Kleinfelder.

“We’re now working on complying with the most recent request of having the engineers provide a verification plan,” Absher said. “We’re confident this validation as outlined by the county and executed by engineers of record will satisfy everyone’s concern.”

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