Trump Tower Tampa, a 52-story riverfront condo that was supposed to create luxury and transform the downtown Tampa skyline, is a failure that still reverberates in the minds of many in the city. The much-hyped $300 million project was pitched during the height of the Tampa Bay building boom, but was never completely built. The project eventually collapsed into acrimony, lawsuits and a lengthy legal battle. Now, Donald Trump’s opponents want to use that failure against him.
As the Republican presidential primary comes to Florida, those hoping to derail the front-runner’s rise will be focusing the public’s attention on the details of the failed venture. The Our Principles PAC has already declared that the Trump Tower Tampa project will be the focus of political ads targeting Trump. They are hoping that the messages will sway voters to vote for one of the other candidates still in the race for the Republican nomination.
In January 2005, Trump announced that he would be forming a partnership with development firm SimDag/Robel to build the project on Florida’s west coast. According to a licensing agreement between the parties, SimDag would pay Trump $2 million plus a percentage of condo sales. The terms of the contract were later amended to increase Trump’s fees to $4 million in exchange for a concession in his cut of condo sales. The agreement also required that the terms be kept secret.
According to investors in the Trump Tower Tampa project, Trump appeared to be actively involved in the project. He was present for the sales launch and gave interviews in which he claimed that he had a “substantial stake” in the venture. His promotion of the venture played a large part in deposits being put down for all 190 units in the property, which were priced from $700,000 to $6 million. The project stalled when it was found that the planned foundation for the property would be inadequate for the riverside parcel. It collapsed completely when the real estate bubble finally imploded.
When Trump sued the developers for more than $1 million in licensing fees, it was the fist indication to investors that Trump was involved in the project in name only. After the two sides settled the case in 2008, SimDag declared bankruptcy. Those who had put down deposits on the condos were only entitled to half of their money back, as the other half was used for construction costs. Some of the investors in the project lost seven-figure sums.
Many of those who lost money on the project sued Trump in 2009, alleging fraud, negligence, and misrepresentation. His lawyers responded that the sales agreements clearly showed that SimDag was the developer and as such, was solely responsible for financing. Settlements were eventually reached in the cases, with some of those owed money getting as little as $11,115, according to settlement records. Next week will show whether disclosing these details to the population will be enough to result in a loss for Trump among voters.