TAMPA — When developer Larry Feldman announced plans for a mixed-used tower abutting Tampa's Riverwalk three years ago, it called for 14 floors of office space. No more.
Feldman and Two Roads Development, partners in Riverwalk Place, revealed today that the 50-plus story tower will be totally residential except for restaurants on the ground floor.
"A developer's job is to fill demand," Feldman said, ''and the demand tells us people want condos."
Even before tonight's formal opening of an opulent sales center, prospective buyers had placed deposits on condos valued at nearly $70 million. And 20 percent of those buyers reserved two units with the idea of joining them into one 4,000-square-foot-plus condo.
Feldman and Reid Boren of Two Roads said they realized there was a market for upscale, owner-occupied condos downtown when an unexpected number of potential buyers inquired about parking and storage. "Investors typically don't ask those kinds of questions," Feldman said.
So far, all of those with reservations are from the Tampa Bay area and have paid required deposits of $25,000 instead of the $10,000 more typical for this market. "That's a show of commitment" that they intend to go through with the purchase, Boren said.
Units are priced from $600,000 to more than $2 million.
Two Roads, which has developed several South Florida condo towers, linked up with Feldman last year after a previous partner sued him. The suit alleged that Feldman, who owns several Tampa Bay office buildings and is known primarily as an office developer, wanted more office space in the proposed tower than the market warranted.
That case has been settled, and project appears on track for a construction start next year. The sail-shaped tower with water views from every unit will rise at Ashley Drive and Whiting Street on the site of the doomed Trump Tower Tampa.
More than 250 guests were invited to a gala tonight at Feldman's Wells Fargo Center, which is across from the proposed Riverwalk Place and contains the sales center for the project. Part of the center has been designed to resemble a condo with luxury Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances and a striking Italian-made tub in the bathroom.
"The key is to make sure buyers have a really good sense of how their homes are going to look," Feldman said.
Prospective buyers can "see" out of their condo, thanks to a virtual realty video that shows day and nighttime views from every floor and every unit in what will be the tallest building on Florida's west coast.
The sales center also contains a small version of what will be the tower's lobby, designed by Thom Filicia of TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It will have a concierge desk partially covered in leather, soaring stone walls with a distinctive grain and large, and cream-colored floor tiles with inlaid strips of brass instead of grout.
"I want the lobby to feel modern and simple and clean but also so it will age well," said Filicia, who bustled about hanging photos and setting out dishes of pistachios in the hours before guests arrived.
Why pistachios and not almonds? someone asked. "Because people won't eat them," Filicia said. "They don't want to open the shells."
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate