Friday, March 4, 2016

When Geology Stopped Trump

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Everyone seems to be talking about how to stop Donald Trump's campaign to be President of the United States. However, there was a time in 2006 when Florida's Geology did him in.

At that time, there was an effort underway to build a glitzy Trump Tower in downtown Tampa. This was in the era that saw towers going up in many cities across the world. Tampanians who wanted to be part of the Trump glitz machine put down initial deposits so that the company could start building a 52-story residential skyscraper on a piece of land along the Hillsborough River. Half of their deposit went into escrow and the other half went to construction costs.

West Central Florida is home to some of the most unusual karst landscapes in the world. Karst is a landscape of soluble terrain, usually limestone. Caverns, sinkholes, and springs are common in the Tampa region. What is unique about the area is that the limestone is covered with a blanket of sediment which hides a highly variable limestone subsurface. While the landscape may look flat due to the deposition of marine sediments during high water stands, the actual bedrock surface undulates quite a bit. The site where the Trump Tower was to be built in downtown Tampa had a highly unusual karst expression in the subsurface and required millions of dollars to build a foundation that would hold up a 52-story building. The limestone of the area is rather weak and large buildings need to be built carefully.

There are examples in Tampa of major structural failure near downtown that demonstrate that there are reasons for concern. For example, when the Crosstown Expressway was under construction, a sinkhole caused a support structure to fail, thereby causing the collapse of the elevated roadway. Failure of large buildings in karst areas has occurred. In Allentown Pennsylvania, in 1994, a large office building in downtown collapsed as a result of a sinkhole just after the building opened. There are real challenges to building large heavy structures in karst areas.

Due to the high engineering and technical costs, the Tampa Trump Tower was never built. Those who put in deposits lost a significant amount of money and were not happy with their experiences.

While many are trying to find ways to stop The Donald's political ambitions today, it was a geologic reality that ended his plans in 2006.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Geology also stopped him from building "Trump on the Ocean" - his proposed restaurant and catering hall at Jones Beach. Federal regulations would not allow the structure to have a basement for the obvious reason that basements on the beach are prone to flooding via groundwater and tides. The Donald fought to build his restaurant anyway, but eventually gave up. Of course, had he built it, Sandy would have done a number on it and we all would have ended up footing the insurance bill.