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‘Today’ audience to design bay area home

By JUDY STARK, Times Homes Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2001

Starting Wednesday on the Today show, you can watch a house being built somewhere in the Tampa Bay area and vote online on everything from floor plan to carpet to design of the master bedroom.

Viewers will see the floor plans of four models under construction by David Weekley Homes in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. They'll choose their favorite by voting on the show's Web site:

That initial Valentine's Day episode will be broadcast from the Today show studio in New York. But once the viewers' votes are in and the favorite floor plan has been selected, the show will offer updates for 11 succeeding Wednesdays from the construction site at a subdivision somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, hosted by Lou Manfredini, the show's "Mr. Fix-It" correspondent. Weekley spokeswoman Jennifer Bosek declined to say where the construction is taking place.

Viewers will continue to cast online votes to select among various choices, Bosek said. "We'll show options within the house -- four kitchens, four master bedrooms, four carpet choices -- and after the viewers vote, that's what we'll put in the house."

The home's price will fall in the range of $250,000 to $270,000, she said. When the house is sold, proceeds from the sale will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, Today spokeswoman Allison Gollust said.

Typically it takes six to eight months to build a house, but the four homes from which viewers will make the initial pick "are already roofed in. We're not starting from the ground up," Bosek said. The homes are already about 12 weeks into their construction schedule, she said.

"And of course we've got to conform to their schedule," she said of the Today show, so Weekley will do what it needs to do to keep construction on target and finish the home on time.

Today chose the Tampa Bay area for the project because it needed an area where construction goes on in winter and wanted an attractive location.

Houston-based David Weekley Homes builds in seven subdivisions in Hillsborough, two in Pinellas and one in Pasco. Its homes are generally priced between $200,000 and $400,000.

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