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South Tampa lawyer known for suing nursing homes puts house on market for $11 million

The house is among a growing roster of Tampa Bay homes priced at more than $10 million.
The South Tampa mansion of attorney Jim Wilkes, who made a fortune and a national name suing nursing homes, is on the market for $11 million.
The South Tampa mansion of attorney Jim Wilkes, who made a fortune and a national name suing nursing homes, is on the market for $11 million.
Published Feb. 15, 2019

TAMPA — A Tampa mansion that just hit the market at $11 million has many unusual features: A pool deck made of Jerusalem stone. Chestnut floors from an old factory in Massachusetts. A music room that has hosted Grammy-winning song producers.

But given the price and the Beach Park location, the most unusual aspect could be this: The house is not on the water.

"I'm a climate-change realist,'' owner James Wilkes said. "I don't like the concept of continuing to rebuild places that get flooded.''

Wilkes grew up inland, in a beloved house in Seminole Heights that was razed decades ago to make way for Interstate 275. He went on to law school and founded a firm, Wilkes & McHugh, that gained national attention for suing nursing homes over claims of abuse and neglect. Featured in People magazine and on shows such as Dateline, he has been hailed for improving patient conditions and blasted for costly litigation that drove many nursing homes into bankruptcy.

At 68, Wilkes is still battling the industry, which he says is "in more crises than ever.'' But he and his wife, Melania, are finding that their house, at 8,133 square feet, might be a little more than they want to handle as the years go on.

"We have a couple of condos on the Bayshore (Boulevard),'' he said, "and this is a big house and I think that if we find the right buyer I might sell it."

When Wilkes was looking for a place to build a home, he knew he wanted to be in South Tampa close to his law office but not right on the water. He bought three lots on Royal Palm Way in 2004-05. It took another four years to finish the house, which sits well above sea level and has five bedrooms, seven full baths, two laundry rooms, a home theater, a game room and a workout room.

There is also a music room with an area for Wilkes' guitars. He has long been involved in the music industry, launching Streamsound Records with producer Bryon Gallimore and later Red Vinyl Music with Gallimore and Tim McHugh. In a $500-million deal two years ago, Red Vinyl sold the rights to 3,000 songs including many recorded by artists such as Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Faith Hill and Martina McBride.

(Side note: As Wilkes was talking about his house this week, he was looking at a neighboring home where singer Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash lived while attending Plant High School in 1962.)The Wilkes' house is among a growing roster of Tampa Bay homes priced at more than $10 million. This year alone, listings have included a Gibstonton estate for $18 million and a Thonotosassa spread for $22 million.

Wilkes said his agents, Anne Mullis and Cindy Richards, have told him that homes in his price range can take two or three years to sell. In the meantime, he's eying a small ranch house on a nearby lot as the possible site of his next house.

It, too, is high and dry.

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