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Developers battle over project on former site of Trump Tower Tampa

in Local Courts/Top Headlines by

One of the Tampa-area projects devastated by the 2008 real estate crash was a $300 million condo tower from real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who is currently serving as 45th president of the United States.

Now, developers are squaring off in court over another proposal for the downtown parcel that was once to be the home of Trump Tower Tampa.

In late 2015, St. Petersburg-based Feldman Equities and Orlando-based Tower Realty Partners paid just over $12-million for the land off S. Ashley Avenue between Brorein Street, Whiting Street on the Hillsborough River. It is the last undeveloped waterfront property in downtown Tampa.

The two developers with a shared history then announced plans to build a 52-acre, mixed-use skyscraper called Riverwalk Tower. At 627 feet, the $225-million building would become downtown Tampa’s tallest.

Plans included restaurants, retail, office space, parking and luxury condos; construction would end in 2018.

“Let’s move dirt & never mention Trump again,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn tweeted in November 2015, in response to the purchase.

Lawrence Harold “Larry” Feldman, 63, is behind the eponymous Feldman Equities. Feldman is a former chair and CEO of Tower Realty Trust and, according to his LinkedIn bio, has significant experience building and managing office buildings.

Cliff Stein and Reid Berman are principals of Tower Realty Partners.

Riverwalk Tower Investment — Intown is a unit of Tampa-based Intown Group, a residential developer. Gregory Jon “Greg” Minder is the firm’s 48-year-old founder.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Feldman Equities and Tower Realty either jointly own or owned three high-rises in downtown St. Petersburg.

Although it was initially reported that Riverview Tower was a joint venture of two companies, a third company — Intown Group — had expressed interest in the project, as a way to take advantage of Minder’s experience developing multifamily housing.

In a complaint filed Aug. 24 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Intown says its agreement with Feldman Equities and Tower Realty Partners clearly states that Minder would oversee construction of the residential component of Riverwalk Tower, while Feldman would oversee the office component, his area of expertise.

However, Intown is accusing Feldman of reneging on that promise by unilaterally taking control of the residential component, marginalizing Minder and directly (or indirectly) causing the departure of Smith & Associates, the real-estate firm Minder hired to market the Tower’s condos.

Since Feldman has “no expertise in residential development,” Intown is saying that his control of the condo component of Riverwalk Tower could cause the entire project to “fail or at the very least be far less successful.”

Intown is seeking damages for breach of contract, payment for its services to date, and the court to declare Feldman does not have authority to push Minder aside.

Intown is claiming Feldman Equities also breached its contract by refusing to “negotiate a buy-out of Intown’s interest in the joint venture.”

The lawsuit does not determine what percentage is owned by Intown, Feldman or Tower Realty in the joint venture.

According to Feldman, however, that the document in question was only a letter of intent; Intown has no ownership stake in Riverwalk Tower.

In an email to Florida Politics.com, Feldman explained that Minder is “in no way an owner of the real estate or any of the chain of title,” of the project.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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