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Planned Riverwalk Place condo tower in Tampa stops taking reservations

Demolition work has begun on the vacant CapTrust building on part of the downtown Tampa site proposed for the 50-plus story Riverwalk Place condo tower.  The site on Ashley Drive between E Whiting and Brorein streets is near Tampa’s Riverwalk.  [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Demolition work has begun on the vacant CapTrust building on part of the downtown Tampa site proposed for the 50-plus story Riverwalk Place condo tower. The site on Ashley Drive between E Whiting and Brorein streets is near Tampa’s Riverwalk. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Published Jul. 12, 2019

TAMPA — The developers of Riverwalk Place have stopped taking reservations for condos in the 50-plus story tower planned for the downtown riverfront.

A statement Friday attributed only to "Riverwalk Place'' indicated the halt was temporary and did not stem from any major problems with the project.

"Now that the tower will be all residential, the designers are updating floorplans,'' the statement said. "Once complete, buyers can reserve those updated plans. We continue to market the project, and potential buyers have always been welcome to visit the sales center to learn all they wish."

Larry Feldman, who is partnering on the tower with a South Florida firm, was asked via email when the updates will be finished, how many reservations have been made and when construction, set for this year, might actually begin. His response: "We will update you with more information on each topic as soon as we can.''

Riverwalk's sales center, which is in the Feldman-owned Wells Fargo Center at 100 S Ashley Drive, was open Friday. Across the street, demolition of a vacant office building on part of the tower site was underway.

When Feldman announced the project four years ago, it was to have a combination of office space and condos. According to a 2017 lawsuit filed by his then-partner, Feldman wanted more office space than the market warranted.

READ MORE: Developer: Tampa tower could 'one-up' Beach Drive in St. Petersburg as waterfront destination

That suit was settled, and Feldman said last year that Two Roads Development, which specializes in luxury high-rises, would be a partner and co-owner of Riverwalk Place. In November, it was revealed that the tower would be totally residential except for restaurants on the ground floor.

"A developer's job is to fill demand,'' Feldman said at the time, "and the demand tells us people want condos.'' He said prospective buyers already had reserved nearly $70 million worth of units with required deposits of $25,000.

Riverwalk Place has been the subject of a lavish marketing campaign kicked off by a November gala attended by more than 250 guests. In the sales center, a virtual reality video enables buyers to "see" the view from their desired unit. Model rooms were designed by Thom Filicia of TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, who also designed the tower's lobby and other common areas.

In 2005, a local group announced plans for Trump Tower Tampa on the same site now proposed for Riverwalk Place. The real estate crash killed that project, and the tract at 102 E Whiting Street was vacant until Feldman bought it in 2015 for $12.05 million.

READ MORE: Buyers still feel burned by Donald Trump after Tampa condo tower failure

Since then, Tampa has developed the Riverwalk on the east side of the Hillsborough River into one of the bay area's most popular outdoor venues. Hundreds of new apartments have gone up nearby, and plans were announced in June for a 34-story condo tower in the heart of downtown.

READ MORE: 34-story condo tower planned for the heart of downtown Tampa

For the past two years, though, there has been speculation that the current boom might be nearing its end.

Robert Stern, a Tampa real estate lawyer who works with developers and lenders, said no developer wants to be stuck with a half-finished building when a recession or downturn hits.

"It's better to put the brakes on it if you're not 100 percent certain you'll get to the finish line,'' he said. "Then you can be the first one out of the gate early in the next cycle.''

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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