Signs abounded Monday that New York's best-known real estate mogul is serious about building a $220-million luxury condominium complex in downtown Tampa that, at 52 stories, would be the tallest condo project on Florida's west coast.
First, there's the name: Trump Tower Tampa.
There's the hired help: software executive Kelly Perdew, the recent winner of the popular reality TV series The Apprentice, is assigned to promote the Tampa project for his new boss, Donald Trump.
And, again, there's that name: Among those who have reserved a condo is Trump's 27-year-old son, Donald J. Trump Jr., a vice president in the family business.
Jody Simon, part of a local development team partnering with the Trump Organization, said the younger Trump signed up just last week to buy a unit. It's not the penthouse, but "it's a nice unit," he said.
"There was and is now an immediate buzz and level of activity (for presales) that we've never seen in any of our previous projects," said Simon, who along with his four partners has completed more than 1,000 luxury condominiums and townhouses in the bay area. Among the projects the group has in the works is HarborView Grande in Clearwater.
Simon would not quantify advance reservations, but said he was confident the building will sell out.
News of Trump's involvement surfaced late Friday. Trump made it official with an announcement in New York on Monday, revealing project details with his customary . . . enthusiasm.
"We are developing a signature landmark property so spectacular that it will redefine both Tampa's skyline and the market's expectations of luxurious condominium living," Trump trumpeted. "Trump Tower Tampa will undoubtedly have a phenomenal impact on the city."
Located on a 1.5-acre site at 111 S Ashley Drive, adjacent to the Hillsborough River, the building will include 190 condominium and penthouse units ranging from 1,991 square feet to 6,150 square feet. Prices range from $700,000 to more than $6-million for the penthouse and other top units.
It would be the tallest building on the west coast of Florida, exceeding the 100 North Tampa Building across the street by 17 feet, said Tampa lawyer Ron Weaver, who shepherded the rezoning of the parcel.
"Downtown Tampa doesn't have anything like this. Period," said Dr. Howard Howell, a Clearwater orthodontist and developer involved in the project.
The builders hope to fetch record prices in downtown Tampa _ and among the highest in the region _ based on the Trump name, the views of where the river meets the bay, the proximity to cultural venues, nightspots and a host of amenities. The complex will feature concierge and valet services, a business center, fitness center and spa, a restaurant, retail shops, billiards and game rooms. Marketing materials describe the use of "exotic wood finishes, imported marble floors with inlaid onyx highlights and a fine art collection."
Local condo developer Brooks Byrd, who is not involved in the project, thinks the market can bear the number of condos and the price range floated by his newest competitor.
"There are folks that invest in Trump . . . going from Trump project to Trump project," Byrd said. "That name recognition certainly allows them to capitalize."
Developed in partnership
The complex is being developed in a partnership between the Trump Organization and Tampa Bay-area developers SimDag-RoBEL, LLC. In addition to Simon and Howell, SimDag-RoBEL partners include Patrick Sheppard, Frank Dagostino and Robert E. Lyons.
The tower is to be built on a tract near the Brorein Street bridge long targeted as a potential residential centerpiece for downtown Tampa.
An Atlanta developer planned to build a 10-story office building on part of the site in 2001. Then, in 2003, another development group managed by Alexander Miran secured an option for the land and filed ambitious plans for erecting a 33-story residential high-rise called Presidential Tower.
Miran's group, however, didn't have the deep financial pockets to proceed. SimDag-RoBEL emerged more than a year ago to buy the parcel. It already owned the adjacent Wachovia Securities building, which it plans to retain, as well as the Wachovia Securities parking lot which will be part of the Trump Tower footprint.
From the start, the developers were interested in linking Trump to their vision; through mutual friends, Simon and Dagostino arranged to see him.
Eight months ago, the local developers flew to New York to pitch their idea to the mogul.
Under a timetable laid out Monday, developers plan to begin sales in February with a personal visit from Trump, break ground in April and open by the third quarter of 2007. The Tampa firm of Smith Barnes Santiesteban Architecture designed the tower and Turner Construction will build it.
Although SimDag-RoBEL did the heavy lifting in putting plans together, the local team insists Trump is lending far more than his name to the project.
Trump's people were deeply involved in the final design and will be actively marketing the condos, even capitalizing on Apprentice winner Perdew to personally promote the project.
Trump's ups and downs
Long before he became a TV star, Trump had made a national name for himself by building and losing several real estate fortunes.
Most recently, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in late November. The proposed restructuring will chop Trump's stake in the resorts group from 47 percent to 27 percent, leaving him as CEO.
Such miscues aside, Trump has maintained the public persona of a successful and resilient businessman as his popular TV show and bestselling books attest. He has claimed that his name alone can boost the value of a real estate project by more than 20 percent.
Trump Tower Tampa is the billionaire's first project on the Gulf of Mexico, though he has been active elsewhere in Florida.
He has two hotel/condo projects under way in Fort Lauderdale, plus the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences, part of which already is open in Sunny Isles Beach near north Miami Beach.
Real estate watchers in Florida, however, readily recall another Trump venture here that fell flat.
In 1986, Trump bought a troubled condominium venture in West Palm Beach and renamed it Trump Plaza of the Palm Beaches. Five years later, he wound up surrendering the still-troubled properties to his lender, Marine Midland Bank. That lender, in turn, dumped them at auction, taking a reported loss in the millions.
Trump Organization spokeswoman Jill Cremer indicated there is no parallel with Trump Tower Tampa.
"This is definitely happening. We have financing in place. We have construction permits in place, sales and marketing team as well (and) a significant number of reservations," Cremer said.
"There is no turning back now."
Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this story. Jeff Harrington can be reached at harringtonsptimes.com or (813) 226-3407.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
NAME: Trump Tower Tampa
SCOPE: 52-story high-rise including 190 condominium and penthouse units
DEVELOPERS: SimDag-RoBEL, LLC and the Trump Organization
PRICE TAG: $220-million
LOCATION: 111 S Ashley Drive, downtown Tampa
Trump Tower Tampa
593 ft. (52 stories)
100 North Tampa
579 ft. (42 stories)
St. Petersburg's Bank of America Tower
386 ft. (28 stories)
Sunshine Skyway Bridge