Actor had business interests in Tampa

Published Nov. 2, 1993|Updated Oct. 10, 2005

Actor River Phoenix, who died early Sunday after having seizures outside a Los Angeles nightclub, had an interest in land in Ybor City being developed by a boyhood friend.

Last month, Phoenix paid $135,000 for several small lots and a vacant 12,000-square-foot building adjacent to the former W.T. Grant discount store on Seventh Avenue in the heart of Ybor City, according to Hillsborough County records.

Michael Tubbs, a longtime friend of Phoenix's who lives in Gainesville, bought the 10,000-square-foot Grant building in August and is planning a restaurant and nightclub there to be called 1507, after its street address.

Casey Gonzmart, whose family sold the two-story Grant building to Tubbs for $275,000, said he thought the land was to be used as a parking lot for the nightclub.

"We didn't deal with him (Phoenix) but I believe he was involved," said Gonzmart, whose family owns the Columbia Restaurant chain.

Tubbs could not be reached for comment at his Gainesville home.

Phoenix's and Tubbs' land holdings went much further than Ybor City. The two also were partners with Heart Phoenix in a company called Eco-Rica Preservation Inc., which is headquartered in Gainesville.

"It's a private Florida corporation organized to hold title to a parcel of rain forest property in Costa Rica with a view to preserving it in its pristine, natural condition," said Lavinia "Vinny" Vaughn, a Tampa attorney who represents the company.

Vaughn said she did not know the size of the parcel, but added that it was part of a larger tract of rain forest owned for preservation by a Costa Rican partnership.