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Trouble for Trump site

A “subsurface anomaly” requires more support shafts to be installed in the latest setback for $260-million condo project.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 25, 2006

Workers on Trump Tower Tampa have discovered a “subsurface anomaly” in laying pilings for the 52-story skyscraper, sparking a delay that could throw the landmark project five months further off schedule.

The discovery, detailed in a report filed this week with city inspectors, comes on top of the developer’s struggle to find financing and could add millions to its $260-million price.

The news also promises to spoil the scheduled “late 2008” move-in for prospective buyers of the 192 luxury condominiums, ranging in price from about $700,000 to $6.2-million.

A city inspector learned about the subsurface anomaly on a visit this week to the 1.5-acre riverfront site at Ashley Drive and Brorein Streets.

Bob Bass, Tampa’s chief construction inspector, said it could be unstable soil or the absence of bedrock where developers had expected it to be.

“It could be a void or cavern,” Bass said Friday after reviewing a city inspector’s report that flagged the anomaly. Bass resisted calling any such void a sinkhole, which he defined as a cavern that opens up at surface level.

“It may be something that doesn’t support the building as the surrounding material does,” he said.
In any case, SimDag LLC, the tower’s developer, turned away questions about the project Friday.

“We have no comment. Thank you. Bye-bye,” a receptionist at SimDag’s downtown headquarters told a St. Petersburg Times reporter.

According to the construction schedule released when Trump Tower Tampa broke ground March 2, workers were supposed to complete installing 163 underground caissons to support the 600-foot skyscraper in 51/2  months.

That won’t happen, thanks to the “anomaly.” Workers boring as much as 250 feet underground discovered instability that will require additional caissons.

Caissons are formed by drilling shafts to the bedrock, lining them with a steel shell and filling them with concrete.

“They will commence construction of additional caissons in October, with a possible completion of this activity in December/January,” the Tampa inspector’s report reads, quoting SimDag’s project manager.

SimDag estimated construction would last 33 months from the March ground breaking. The “late 2008” completion was predicated on the caisson work wrapping up on schedule.

The skyscraper’s estimated $260-million cost could rise substantially, considering the price of steel and concrete to lay extra caissons. It would be at least the second time SimDag went to the well for more money. In February, it asked depositors for an additional $40-million to cover cost overruns.

Ground instability had been just one stumbling block for a project unveiled when New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump swept into Tampa in Feb. 2005.

In a gusher of superlatives, Trump billed the tower as the highest in the region. Buyers, both homesteaders and investors, flocked to put money down. Trump has licensed his name to the tower in exchange for a piece of profits, but his company has left operations to SimDag.

As far back as the tower’s announcement in early 2005, Trump said he would be interested in buying out at least a portion of his Tampa partners’ equity stake.

Turner Construction Co., the project’s former general contractor, slapped a lien on SimDag this summer to recover $1.6-million it says it’s owed.

Even more problematic has been the loan SimDag needs to start the shell of the tower once the foundation is firm.
Many banks have soured on condo development loans amid a downturn that’s spilled thousands of condos on the market in the Tampa Bay area alone.

As far back as six months ago, SimDag spokesman David Hooks said a financing deal was “days” or “weeks” away.
Hooks couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, nor could Trump’s spokeswoman in New York.

James Thorner can be reached at (813) 226-3313 or

[Last modified August 25, 2006, 21:22:29]

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