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Stand-ins break ground on Trump Tower Tampa

Published March 3, 2006

TAMPA - Donald Trump sent his third Apprentice and a letter of regret to the building site along the Hillsborough River, but Trump Tower Tampa's local partners managed to hoist their golden spades without help from their heavyweight New York partner.

"Turn some dirt," Trump Tower developer Frank Dagostino ordered his ceremonial shovel-toting colleagues under a white tent Thursday afternoon at Ashley Drive and Brorein Street.

That they did. Now comes about 33 months of construction for the $260-million, 52-story luxury condominium tower touted as a linchpin for downtown Tampa's revitalization.

If the tower opens as planned in late 2008, Dagostino and his partners will have fashioned 65,000 cubic yards of concrete and 12-million pounds of steel into 192 condos ranging in price from about $700,000 to $6.2-million.

"It's a good thing for the community and stakeholders in our downtown," said Tampa economic development director Mark Huey, standing in for Mayor Pam Iorio. The mayor had cleared her calendar to attend the funeral of bodyguard Juan Serrano, who was killed in a car crash last week.

Trump is lending his name to the project in exchange for a piece of the profits, but said he couldn't leave New York with his third wife, Melania, about to give birth.

He sent his best wishes in short letter read by Kendra Todd, last year's winner of the third season of Trump's national TV show, The Apprentice.

Trump enlisted two colleagues to serve as stand-ins in Tampa, but executives Jill Cremer and Bernie Diamond were snowed in up north, Todd said.

"I'm a last-minute fill-in but it's a good fit, don't you think?" the 27-year-old Floridian said as wind whipped her long blond hair.

Trump's local partners had tried to schedule a visit from The Donald for months, to no avail. "We wish Donald could have been here but he couldn't," Dagostino, chairman of SimDag LLC, said.

Next up for Trump Tower Tampa is 5 1/2 months of laying pilings to support its 600-foot frame on 1 1/2 acres. Some of the 163 supports, known as caissons, will claw the bedrock 100 feet underground.

The 2 p.m. groundbreaking drew the architect, contractors, developers and real estate agents. Notably absent was a financier to lend the project an estimated $200-million.

Project spokesman David Hooks said developers have fielded bids from three lenders but were holding out for a better deal. Financing could be announced in "days or a couple of weeks," Hooks said.

After Dagostino and the others speared the dirt, the crowd of about 75 vanished up a long red carpet to a reception in a neighboring building.

[Last modified March 3, 2006, 02:15:34]

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