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He's brash, blustery and bursting with plans to build projects bigger than everyone else's.

He's also overexposed, overreaching and, some would say, overblown - more short-fingered vulgarian (as he was known in Spy magazine) than savvy entrepreneur.

But whatever he is, Donald Trump is no quitter. And you've gotta love him for that.

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Last Friday, the glowering Manhattan real estate developer and unstoppable brand impresario presided over the official groundbreaking of the Trump International Hotel and Tower wedged between Scotiabank Plaza and the BMO Tower on Bay Street south of Adelaide Street.

Construction of the 57-storey five-star hotel and condominium will take until 2010, at which time the building's no doubt fabulous and super-rich tenants will begin moving in to their 118 finely appointed suites and 261 hotel rooms. (The hotel rooms can be rented out to the riff-raff when not occupied by the owners.)

Not surprisingly, the Trump Tower is over the top in terms of luxury appointments, right down to the chauffeured Mercedes S-Class sedans at beck and call 24 hours a day.

What is surprising to some is that the tower, in all its gauche glory, may actually see the light of day after a troubled gestation that included an initial failed partnership with a convicted fraudster, a trail of unpaid bills for marketing services, the irate reaction to the design from the project's bank tower neighbours and slow sales.

Since the project was first announced in the spring of 2001, great things about the site at 311 Bay St. have been trumpeted on billboards and in its presentation centre, but the first backhoe wasn't seen until September.

In its early stages, Bowmore Group of Cos. Inc. partnered with Mr. Trump and the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel brand owned by Marriott International to build a 70-storey super luxury playground. The building was certainly every inch the iconic, neo-gilded age structure designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects. But it wasn't long before the bloom fell off the rose.

Bowmore chairman Leib Waldman, it turned out, was waiting to be extradited to the United States to serve a year-long jail term for an embezzlement conviction that he had skipped out on in 1995. Mr. Waldman had pleaded guilty to funnelling $900,000 in rental income from a Pennsylvania office building he was managing under trusteeship to his wife and other companies.

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In the chaos that followed, Ritz-Carlton bailed on the project, but not on Toronto. It found new partners for a hotel-condo project on Wellington Street east of John Street.

The Trump Organization eventually struck a deal with Talon International Development Inc., and its chairman Alex Schnaider, a 39-year-old Torontonian who has amassed a $1.9-billion fortune investing in everything from Russian steel manufacturing to F1 auto-racing teams.

Austrian bank Raiffeisen Zentralbank Vsterreich AG has ponied up $310-million for construction, backed by existing agreements to purchase $250-million worth of suites.

The rumour mill over the past few years was the biggest obstacle, with persistent reports that Trump Tower sales were grindingly slow. The high price tag of the property definitely makes it an elite product, with the cheapest suite clocking in at $900,000 and prices per square foot ranging from $1,300 to $1,500 (a far cry from the Toronto average of around $500). But at least three other super luxury condominium-hotel projects have been launched in the past two years - the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, and the Shangri-La - with prices in the Trump ballpark, yet reportedly meeting sales targets with little trouble.

The Trump Organization has always been secretive about total sales in the past, but last week it reported that approximately 70 per cent of the suites have been sold, including more than 90 per cent of the hotel rooms.

So six years after he first staked out his claim on Toronto's five-star landscape, Mr. Trump now has the hole in the ground and the light at the end of the tunnel in sight to prove his critics - the "energy vampires" as he calls them - wrong.

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