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Tampa developer Larry Feldman pulls out of Riverwalk Place tower project

The 50-plus story tower is planned on the former Trump tower site on the Hillsborough River. Going forward, Two Roads Development of West Palm Beach is the sole developer.

TAMPA — Riverwalk Place developer Feldman Equities is walking away from five years of work to build a condominium tower meant to be the tallest on the west coast of Florida.

Without providing details, Feldman Equities announced Tuesday that it had reached “amicable terms” to leave its partnership with co-developer Two Roads Development of West Palm Beach.

“Honest business disagreements sometimes mean it is best for partners to split off and pursue their own projects," Feldman Equities president and chief executive officer Larry Feldman said in a news release. “This is one of those times.”

That leaves Two Roads as the sole developer for Riverwalk Place, a luxury condo tower planned at more than 50 stories. GPB Capital, a private equity firm based in New York City and founded by businessman David Gentile, is an equity participant.

Feldman’s departure comes as GPB faces multiple lawsuits from investors and a former employee. The allegations include a claim that GPB operates as a Ponzi scheme. In addition, the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations.

Related: Firm with Clearwater ties investigated by feds. Lawsuits detail 'Ponzi scheme.'

Feldman Equities Vice President Mack Feldman declined to say whether GPB Capital’s legal issues had anything to do with Feldman’s decision to withdraw from the project.

Gentile declined an interview request through GPB Capital spokesperson Nancy Sterling.

“We have filed several motions to dismiss and we intend to vigorously defend against any investor suits,” Sterling said in a one-sentence statement.

Meanwhile, a Two Roads executive praised Feldman’s work on Riverwalk Place.

“We simply would not be here today without the Feldman team’s tireless efforts assembling the land and laying the groundwork over the past few years,” Two Roads managing partner Taylor Collins said in a statement.

Feldman Equities and Two Roads Development revealed the first architectural plans for Riverwalk Place in downtown Tampa. [Rendering courtesy of Gensler]

Two Roads has developed several billion dollars’ worth of projects, including the 57-story Elysee Miami tower, the 51-story Biscayne Beach tower in downtown Miami, Forté Residences in Palm Beach County, plus Freeport, a 1,800-unit master plan community in the Florida Panhandle.

Feldman’s departure is the latest twist for a property that has both inspired lofty ambitions and led to bitter disappointments.

In 2005, a local group announced plans for Trump Tower Tampa on the same site now proposed for Riverwalk Place. They agreed to pay Trump, still years away from his run for the White House, $2 million plus a percentage of the condo sales to use his name in the project. The agreement also included a non-disclosure clause about the licensing arrangements for the use of Trump’s name.

The real estate crash killed that project, and some would-be buyers lost deposits of more than $250,000.

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

In the aftermath, the tract at 102 E Whiting Street sat vacant until Feldman bought it in 2015 for $12.05 million.

Two years ago, Feldman and Two Rivers unveiled plans for a $350 million tower with an outwardly curving, sail-shaped profile. The plan originally was for a mix of office space and condos, but the plan evolved into a condo tower with ground-floor restaurant and retail space.

In November 2018, Riverwalk Place kicked off a spare-no-expense marketing campaign with a gala attended by more than 250 guests. Thom Filicia of TV’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy designed model rooms, the tower’s lobby and other common areas. Its sales center included a virtual reality video that allowed prospective buyers to “see” the view from their desired unit.

By last summer, when Riverwalk Place stopped taking reservations while it updated its floor plans, Feldman said prospective buyers already had reserved nearly $70 million worth of units with required deposits of $25,000.

Related: From July: Planned Riverwalk Place condo tower in Tampa stops taking reservations

While developers have not said anything about re-opening reservations for their condos since then, Collins said “Tampa’s market is attracting interest from across the country, and demand is growing for luxury condominiums in the downtown."

Activity will soon begin around the project site between Ashley Drive and the Riverwalk, according to Tuesday’s news release. The former CapTrust building on the site was demolished late last year to make way for the tower.

The CapTrust building located on the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa was demolished in late 2019 to make way for the Riverwalk Place tower. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]

“We wish the Two Roads team the best on their future endeavor on the site," Feldman said. “This is a great piece of land, and its potential is limitless.”