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Trump Tower

What's behind plan and how real is it?


By Times Staff Writer
Published January 14, 2005

Who's buying these condos?

In past projects, Donald Trump has given first dibs to people who own units in his projects elsewhere, and New Yorkers were reportedly among the initial recruits to the Tampa project. "A lot of them are looking for investments or second homes down here," said Tampa Realtor Gail Bernucca. "These prices are considered a bargain to them."

Will buyers try to flip their units for a profit even before the project is complete?

Trump Tower Tampa will not allow buyers to sell their contracts to a third party. They will have to close on the deal when the project is completed in 2007. Then they will be free to sell it immediately.

Are local people interested?

Yes. Though median household income in Hillsborugh County is $44,351 a year, the expensive condos seem to be generating interest from investors, empty-nesters and young business owners in the Tampa Bay area.

Cindy Oatess and her pharmacist husband, Michael, have seen rapid appreciation of their new home in Apollo Beach and are interested in a $1-million unit in Trump Tower. "It's smart to get in on the low end," she said. "And there's not anything you'll invest in that's making more money than real estate."

Will Trump really be able to get those prices?

Trump's prices in Tampa range from $350 to $1,000 a square foot. Compared with existing Tampa condo projects, which top out at about $500 a square foot, that sets a new benchmark at the high end, but developers say with a straight face that it's not unrealistic. And if Trump's recent experiences with projects in Chicago and Las Vegas are any indication, he will get his price.

In Chicago, where Trump has broken ground on a 90-story building with 472 residential condos, selling prices averaged $1,200 a square foot, said Tere Proctor, director of sales. "Those are big numbers, even for Chicago," she said.

The project is now 78 percent sold.

What do other condo developers think about Trump coming to town?

They say they're thrilled because Trump will pull in investors from around the world who may never have taken a look at Tampa.

Brooks Byrd, whose company developed a high-rise condo on Harbour Island and who is starting to market another project in Channelside, said: "The market now is drawing only 10 percent from folks outside Tampa. For sustained growth in the downtown corridor, we need to reach outside markets."

Jerry Shaw, whose company is building a high-rise condo in St. Petersburg, thinks the exposure benefits will extend across Tampa Bay. "When they start looking around the marketplace, I believe we have a lot more to offer and a lot better value," he said.

Is Trump's arrival in town a sure sign the condo bubble is about to burst?

Marvin Rose, publisher of Rose Residential Reports in Tarpon Springs, said there are two big unknowns: how much of what's being proposed will be built and who's going to make money. If thousands of units are ready for occupancy in two years and everyone expects to sell immediately for a big profit, there could be trouble.

"There's so much activity, it's possible it's a bubble," said Rose, who has observed several boom-and-bust cycles. "I don't know whether the Trump name makes it better or worse. Probably both."

How has Trump built a reputation for high-quality condos?

With his condo projects, Trump delivers "a great location, views, amenities like high ceilings and finishes that have raised the bar," said Proctor, sales director of Trump's Chicago project. "If it's Trump, people know it's going to be wonderful."

Proctor said the Trump name added $200 to $300 a square foot to the price.

- Kris Hundley, Sharon Bond, Brady Dennis

[Last modified January 14, 2005, 06:46:52]

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