TAMPA — For several top-rated seasons of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Thom Filicia and the rest of the Fab Five specialized in makeovers — or "make betters" — of nerdy, fashion-backward heterosexual males.
Since the Emmy-winning show ended its original run 2007, Filicia and his interior design firm have worked with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Tina Fey, David Bowie and Jennifer Lopez. And now, he’s adding a really big client: Tampa’s 50-plus story Riverwalk Place.
Filicia will design several areas in the mixed-use tower, including the residential entrances and fixtures, condominium floor plans and the social "Sky Lobby" on the 20th floor overlooking the bay.
"We’re excited about it. I feel like the building is going to be kind of a benchmark for downtown living with amazing amenities and just incredible views," Filicia said Friday. "It’s a wonderful lifestyle that embraces the culture and the ease and all the city has to offer as well as the west coast of Florida. From leaving after work you could be out on the water sailing, fishing, paddle-boarding and a million other things."
Filicia spoke to the Tampa Bay Times during a break in filming his next show for the Bravo network — The Thom and Carson Project with his Queer Eye co-star, Carson Kressley.
The designer said he has often visited the bay area, staying at Tampa’s Epicurean Hotel, dining at a "wonderful steak place" (Bern’s) across the street and strolling through Hyde Park.
"I love it. I think the energy is great,’’ Filicia said of Tampa. "There are a lot of cool young people downtown and a lot of empty nesters going back to the city, and it’s still such an easy city to get around … being outdoors and taking advantage of its amazing location.’’
Filicia has previously worked with one of the developers of Riverwalk Place, Two Roads Development of West Palm Beach. For that company, he designed parts of the Biscayne Beach condo tower in Miami.
Two Roads and Larry Feldman of Tampa’s Feldman Equities recently unveiled plans for the curved Riverwalk tower on the Hillsborough River at the corner of Ashley Drive and East Whiting Street. The $350 million project will have shops, offices, condos ranging from $600,000 to more than $2 million and a promenade along the Riverwalk with at least five restaurants.
Although Feldman proposed the tower three years ago, work started only recently at what had been the site of the doomed Trump Tower Tampa project in the mid 2000s. The existing CapTrust building on Ashley Drive has been vacated and will be demolished, making way for the main tower.
Developers have started accepting contact information from potential buyers at RiverwalkPlace.com. Smith & Associates Real Estate is the exclusive listing agent.
Filicia’s design work for the Tampa tower will round out a portfolio that includes hotels and special projects like the first outdoor lounges for Delta Air Lines in Atlanta and New York’s JFK Airport; an eco-friendly apartment for Riverhouse, Manhattan’s first "green" luxury condominium tower; and the holiday decoration installation with HGTV for Radio City Music Hall.
Filicia, who has a fine arts in interior design degree from Syracuse University, also has written three books and has an eponymous Home Collection that includes furniture, rugs, textiles, artwork and bedding for the retail and hospitality markets. Those ventures have led to partnerships and projects with such brands as American Express, Audi, Xerox, Green Mountain Coffee and Procter & Gamble.
And if Filicia’s enthusiasm is any judge, Riverwalk Place could one day be almost — almost — as well known.
"It’s forward and interesting and modern and dynamic, not only in scale but in design," Filicia said. "It’s going to be the tallest building on the West Coast, and it’s really thrilling to be part of it."
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate