Tampa, Florida -- 10 News has learned that Al Austin passed away on Wednesday night.
Austin, a prominent Tampa developer, was one of the greatest drivers behind getting the Republican National Convention to Tampa in 2012. The former Republican Party finance chairman was also responsible for building the Gulf coast's single biggest business district: the West Shore business district.
He also led a fundraising campaign for the expansion of the University of Tampa and chaired that Tampa Airport Authority.
Austin's son-in-law, Nelson Guagliardo, says Austin died of an apparent heart attack early Thursday morning. Guagliardo says Austin's death was unexpected, as Austin had appeared to be in good health up to the day before his passing.
Austin, who was 85, is survived by his wife, Beverly, and two daughters and two grandchildren.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn released the following statement on Austin's passing:
"Al Austin was a real estate pioneer who shaped the physical landscape of Tampa. He was the first to truly understand the value that being in close proximity to Tampa International Airport and Pinellas County could have on developing the Westshore Business District into what it is today.
"He believed in his country, his party, and the importance of public service. His decades long effort to bring the Republican National Convention to Tampa will continue to pay dividends, and it would not have occurred without his hard work and faith.
"From his contributions to the University of Tampa to his work on behalf of MacDill Air Force Base, Al always put his city first. I will miss his guidance and remain grateful for all of he has done for Tampa."
Below are interviews with Al Austin on bringing the 2012 RNC to Tampa:
Al Austin, the man behind bringing the 2012 Republican National Convention to Tampa, sits down and with 10 News anchor Reggie Roundtree in this 2012 interview.
Tampa Host Committee Chairman Al Austin on the dream of bringing the Republican National Convention to Tampa (from 2012).
More statements of condolences:
Gov. Rick Scott:
"Ann and I are saddened by the loss of Al Austin, one of the most influential Floridians to ever call Tampa Bay home. Never a stranger to hard work, Al invested in the city he loved so much, and our state is a better place because of his vision. He was a champion of growth and development, higher education, and economic freedom for everyone. Today, Ann and I join all Floridians as we mourn Al. We send our condolences to his family and those closest to him."
U.S. Rep. David Jolly:
"The Bay area lost a friend, a philanthropist and community leader today with the passing of Al Austin. He was a trusted confidant and counselor to so many elected officials and was the driving force behind bringing the 2012 Republican National Convention to Florida. But his legacy and imprint on the region goes far beyond politics. Tampa Bay would not be what it is today without the investment Al and Beverly Austin have made in the development of our region, but more importantly in organizations that continue to serve our community and support those in need."
Candidate for Governor Charlie Crist:
"Al was my friend and a true leader in our community. I am grateful for the guidance he provided to me over my career, and Carole and I are saddened by his passing."
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry:
"The news of Al Austin's passing is unexpected and sad. Al was a great man who led an impressive life. His commitment to the Tampa Bay area and the Republican Party was unprecedented. My prayers are with his family during this time as we honor Al's memory and the legacy he left behind."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
"I am deeply saddened to learn of Al Austin's passing. His tireless efforts on behalf of our country, our community, in pursuit of educational excellence and the Republican Party will long be remembered. Our thoughts and prayers are with Beverly, his family, and those of us who were mentored by his leadership, humbled by his patriotism, and inspired by his philanthropic endeavors."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.