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Las Vegas toasts goodbye to the Gramercy

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L.E. Baskow

The Gramercy real estate project implodes its nine-story residential tower Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015.

Updated Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 | 2:37 p.m.

Gramercy Implosion

The Gramercy real estate project implodes its nine-story residential tower Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Gramercy Implosion

It was almost 7:30 in the morning, on a Sunday no less, but in Las Vegas, when a building is about to be imploded, it’s never too early for a bloody mary or a mimosa.

Off Russell Road and the 215 Beltway, under a tent just south of the Gramercy’s never-finished nine-story condo tower — close enough to watch it come down but far enough to not get hit with debris — a cooler was packed with ice, four jugs of orange juice and five bottles of Michelle Brut sparkling wine. Close by, under another tent, a bartender was serving mixed drinks with vodka and Champagne.

“Watch a building blow up and have some drinks,” the bartender said.

Around 8 a.m. today, the Gramercy’s residential tower, for years a visible scar of Las Vegas’ building bust, was imploded with copper-clad plastic explosives and dynamite.

As planned, the building collapsed east, with the bulk of the rubble falling into an underground parking garage whose ceiling had been ripped off to catch it, leaving behind a massive heap of concrete, steel beams and other debris.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said David Pyle, an executive vice president with the Krausz Companies, which owns the Gramercy with WGH Partners.

The stylish, 20-acre mixed-use project wasn’t entirely wiped off the map. It has two four-story office buildings and two four-story residential buildings that will remain standing.

Krausz and WGH executives haven’t finalized what they’ll replace the tower with but are considering another high-rise, perhaps with office space. They also are thinking of building residential space south of where the tower stood, WGH partner Ofir Hagay said.

With the tower out of the way, the owners can start from scratch on a big chunk of the Gramercy’s site.

“We are very excited,” Hagay said. “Look at the view now.”

Las Vegas’ famed casino implosions of the past few decades were basically early-morning parties, complete with fireworks and huge, cheering crowds.

The Gramercy’s toppling may not have drawn thousands of onlookers to the site, but plenty of people came to watch.

Mark Stephens arrived about 6:30 a.m. and brought a DJI Phantom 2 drone to take aerial video of the implosion. He planned to post it on YouTube.

Stephens has lived in Las Vegas for years but had never seen an implosion in person. He was hoping the Harmon, an unfinished, mothballed hotel on the Strip, would be detonated, but workers began dismantling it piece-by-piece last year.

“So there’s nothing interesting to film there,” Stephens said.

A few drones were buzzing around the Gramercy’s tower before and after the implosion. Contractor Ken Mercurio, who oversaw the demolition, said workers cleared air space with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure aircraft weren’t harmed by the implosion’s air force. But small, unmanned drones weren’t a concern, he said.

“They got lucky they didn’t get sucked out of the air,” said Mercurio, owner of Reno-based Diversified Demolition Co.

Today’s show of destruction was Las Vegas’ second in less than a week, and both were overseen by Mercurio. The Clarion, a 12-story off-Strip hotel, was imploded early Tuesday but didn’t go as planned.

The hotel crumbled faster than expected, and rubble kept much of an elevator tower in place. Work crews pulled it down Tuesday afternoon.

Mercurio said it was the first time in his career that, when imploding a building, it didn’t all come down at once. The Gramercy, however, went exactly as planned, he and other workers said.

“Everything went off in the direction that we had hoped for and planned for,” said Thom Doud, project manager with Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc., which wired the tower with explosives.

The Gramercy, formerly known as ManhattanWest, was mothballed, mid-construction, around 2009 by original developer Alex Edelstein. He sold it in 2013 for just $20 million, a fraction of the $170 million he reportedly spent before lenders yanked his funding.

The new owners — San Francisco-based Krausz and Las Vegas’ WGH — renamed the project and are completing much of what Edelstein didn’t. But they left the tower largely untouched and last month decided it had to go.

As they see it, the tower didn’t fit with the Gramercy’s other buildings and would have cost a lot of money to get up to code, among other issues.

It will take an estimated four to six weeks to remove the rubble and to demolish the tower’s underground garage and replace it with dirt.

Despite the excited atmosphere this morning, not everyone wanted to drink. By 8:30 a.m., when the dust had cleared and most of the crowd had left, the five bottles of Michelle Brut remained in the cooler, on ice and unopened.

But it wasn’t too early for some people. The bartender had poured two bottles of Champagne and almost an entire handle — 1.75 liters — of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

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