Published Friday, June 20, 2014 | 2:42 p.m.
Updated Friday, June 20, 2014 | 3:49 p.m.
Crews have started dismantling the structurally flawed Harmon casino tower on the Las Vegas Strip, a process that's been delayed for years as the owner and builder remain locked in a legal battle over the half-finished building.
Officials at MGM Resorts International said Friday that workers started removing scrap metal and other materials from inside the Harmon tower after a judge issued an order May 5 allowing the process to move forward.
Pedestrian protection systems are being installed outside the building over adjacent sidewalks and walkways, and a crane is expected to arrive in coming weeks to start taking the building apart, company officials said. The entire process is expected to take a year.
A street-level sidewalk is closed, but pedestrian bridges nearby will remain open to allow pedestrian traffic during the dismantling, according to MGM.
The Harmon was designed as a 48-story tower amid the $8.5 billion CityCenter complex that opened in 2009. But construction stopped in 2008 after inspectors found flaws in the steel reinforcements of the concrete structure.
The curved building, which features glass windows in shades of silver and blue, has stood empty at 26 stories ever since.
CityCenter attorneys have argued that the unsound building is a safety hazard and should be taken down as soon as possible. They say the tower could collapse in a strong earthquake — one that has a 50 percent chance of happening in the next 30 years.
Attorneys for the builder, Tutor Perini Building Co., have argued that the structure should stay up to serve as evidence in MGM's lawsuit. They said that if CityCenter was so concerned about safety, it would have done more to earthquake-proof the empty building.
A trial is set for September to determine who is liable for the defects.