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Luxury condo project beats back challenges — and avoids tree

The building designers showed sensitivity to neighbors' concerns by saving a treasured piece of the property's past.

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The 24-story, 71-residence Virage condo tower is a bittersweet addition to south Tampa’s tony Bayshore Boulevard district. It’s rising on the land formerly occupied by the beloved Colonnade restaurant — a community icon since 1935 that closed in April 2016.

The Colonnade site featured a magnificent Florida oak tree that posed a problem for the Virage Bayshore developers. “We talked to local people who had had their first kiss under the tree, and apparently at least one couple, if not more, got married under it," says Jay Tallman, principal of the lead builder, Ascentia Development Group. "But it was definitely in the way of the building.”

Tallman challenged the project’s architectural team to come up with a way to build the tower in such a way that the tree could be preserved. The result was a curved design for the building’s northeast side that leaves room for the tree. “We turned it into a positive,” says Tallman. “It’s created a much more exciting, interesting look, and I swear that tree is in better shape now than when we first started dealing with the site.”

One of the site managers even wears a hardhat with the label, Tree Superintendent. Adds Tallman: “It’s being very well taken care of.”

Tallman says the response to the Virage — which features resort-style amenities and is marketed toward local empty-nesters ready to trade in their single-family detached homes for low-maintenance living — has been excellent, with 10 of 71 units remaining unsold. He credits pent-up, unmet demand in the area for the brisk sales.

“Like any business," says Tallman, "some of it’s skill and foresight, but some of it is just pure luck and timing — being in the right place at the right time.”

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