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Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer

Drew Harwell

Drew Harwell is a business reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, covering homes and real estate.

Newsroom: (727) 893-8252


Twitter: @drewharwell

  1. Modern life smells so good it's killing the cheap perfume industry

    The fast growth of specialized scents in fabric softeners, household cleaners and body sprays has helped make America, and the typical American, smell sweeter and cleaner than ever. Even storefronts and airlines are rigging up scent machines to bathe customers in the companies' trademarked aromas.

    It's good news for our noses but terrible news for a once-bountiful business: The nation's perfume and cologne industry. Sales in the United States of mass fragrances, those non-designer scents bottled for a middle-class clientele, have dropped by half since 2000, to about $600 million last year, data from market researcher ­Euromonitor International show....

    Who needs it anymore?
  2. Automakers fake engine noise, leading to calls for transparency


    Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you'll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades.

    It's a sham. The engine growl in some of America's bestselling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-synching, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. And it's driving car enthusiasts insane....

    The satisfying rumble of a new Ford F-150 or Mustang may not be coming from the roar of the engine alone as automakers amplify — or even create — the noise.    
  3. Dobyville dollhouse, smallest home for sale in Tampa Bay, has vivid history

    Real Estate


    From one angle, this dollhouse looks like one of those trendy, minimalist micro-homes, all 388 square feet of it tucked into a tiny thumbprint among the oaks of Historic Hyde Park North.

    It is by far the smallest home on the market in Tampa Bay, thinner than a lane of traffic and built in 1910, a clapboard relic lost in one of South Tampa's fastest changing neighborhoods.

    Tom Scarritt, 57, a lawyer, bought it with his wife, Linda, a decade ago, convinced it would make a good one-room rental for "singles and short people."...

    Matt Clarie, 34, checks his email on the porch of the tiny home he rents in Hyde Park North. When it was built in 1910, the house sat at the heart of Dobyville, once a thriving community of black families in segregated Tampa.
  4. Florida's biggest law firms tap new gold mine: state's proposed medical-weed industry

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — For decades, attorney Richard Blau focused his legal savvy on the high-stakes business of booze. Alcohol-industry law was an attorney's dream, full of unresolved questions and deep-pocketed players clawing their way to the top.

    So when Florida's talk turned to marijuana, another storied pastime with its own dubious history, Blau's titan of a law firm, GrayRobinson, jumped at the opportunity. Blau now leads a special practice for clients wanting to capitalize on medical cannabis — and bend the laws to their advantage....

    Medical Marijuana
  5. Jeff Vinik razes another waterfront home to build Sarasota mansion

    Real Estate

    SARASOTA — If you're rich, you can afford to buy a multimillion-dollar home just to tear it down for your new mansion.

    If you're Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik? You can afford two.

    Vinik, the hedge fund megamillionaire and hockey baron who just bought Tampa's Channelside Bay Plaza, started demolition last week on a waterfront home near Sarasota's St. Armands Circle that he and his wife, Penny, bought in May for $3.5 million, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune said....

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Mary, have purchased this 1950 house on North Washington Drive on St. Armands Key for $ 3.5 million. It is next door to a property they purchased last fall for $4.5 million. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 5-21-2014.
  6. Pricey, posh, tiny apartments rule Tampa Bay's big-money rental boom

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — When Adrienne Hatch wanted a new apartment, she saw no other option than downtown, where she'd be close to the running clubs and nightlife hideaways of the city's youngest, buzziest blocks.

    So last month, the 28-year-old dietitian moved into a stylish flat in downtown's newest apartment tower, Modera Prime 235. The trade-off? It cost $1,330, double her last rent, for a one-bedroom matchbox spanning 700 square feet....

    Adrienne Hatch, 28, moved from a studio apartment to one within walking distance of key spots in downtown St. Petersburg.
  7. Klondike parent company closing North Pinellas ice cream factory, laying off 210


    PINELLAS PARK — The world's largest ice cream maker will close a plant here that pumps out frozen treats for Klondike, Good Humor and Popsicle, axing hundreds of jobs.

    Global consumer-goods giant Unilever said Monday that about 210 workers at the plant, at 5400 118th Ave., will lose their jobs between September and the end of the year.

    The firm plans to shift its ice cream production to plants in Tennessee and Missouri, where it has "invested heavily in technology … to build our brands and sustainably grow," company spokeswoman Jaime Stein said....

  8. Buyer of historic St. Petersburg YMCA says he made final payment

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A jumbled push to convert a historic YMCA here into a downtown "music mansion" hit another chaotic checkpoint Tuesday, with the prospective buyer's attorney saying his client made a final $1.2 million purchase payment with minutes to spare.

    But neither the seller, nor a second suitor hoping to renovate the aging building, could confirm late Tuesday that the buyer had squeaked in a payment before a tight afternoon deadline....

    The historic YMCA at 116 Fifth St. S in downtown St. Petersburg is a Mediterranean Revival-style edifice built in 1926. 
  9. Tampa Bay home sales rebound off weak spring, but challenges remain

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home sales rebounded last month after a disappointing spring, rising 3 percent over last June and renewing hopes that the housing recovery is back on track.

    About 3,400 single-family homes sold here in June, the second-busiest month for sales since the housing bubble burst, Realtor data show. The median home sold for $167,000, about 2 percent higher than at the same time last year as prices near a post-bust peak....

  10. 'Human props' stay in luxury homes but live like ghosts

    Real Estate


    When the Mueller family sits for dinner, the leftover broccoli and crepes are already wrapped in plastic, the kitchen is beyond spotless, and the rest of the home is so tucked-away tidy it looks like they just moved in. In a way, they have: Every inch of furnishing, every little trinket and votive candle, sits precisely as designers placed it five months ago. That would make them the most perfect suburban ideal, except for one catch: This isn't actually their home. Bob and Dareda Mueller and their three grown sons are, instead, part of an "elite group" of middle-class nomads who have agreed to an outlandish deal. They can live cheaply in this for-sale luxury home if it looks as if they never lived here at all....

    A view of the master bathroom. Everything must be spic-and-span, should a potential buyer come calling — at any minute.
  11. Tampa Bay's explosive vacation-rental growth sparks battles in neighborhoods

    Real Estate

    CRYSTAL BEACH — For Betsy Banks Saul, there is something addictive about giving strangers the keys to her family home. In the past few months she has rented to Massachusetts travelers, Midwestern honeymooners and a family in town for a funeral.

    Banks Saul, 46, loves her vacation rental so much that last week she offered up a second one, her sun-lit beach home across the street. In doubling up, her home became the millionth live listing on HomeAway, where people like her hand over their homes to paying travelers for days or weeks at a time....

Betsy Banks Saul’s gulffront home in Crystal Beach was the millionth live listing on the rental website HomeAway. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]

  12. Florida once again leads nation in abandoned 'zombie foreclosures'

    Real Estate

    Florida once again leads the nation in "zombie foreclosures," abandoned homes sitting for months as their foreclosures slog through court, new data from research firm RealtyTrac show.

    The Sunshine State accounts for 49,000 zombie homes, more than a third of the nation's total, according to data from the second quarter of this year. Homes here are left vacant for an average of 411 days before the foreclosure runs its course....

  13. Loft apartments with old-school charms set for Euclid area

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — This well-walked hallway where Jazz Age kids trudged off to learn math would, in developer Michael Mincberg's eyes, make a perfect one-bedroom apartment.

    The elementary school's bells and old chalkboards — one with a decades-old scribbled missive, "I will not talk!" — would become trinkets for the lobby of the building, where lofts would be "luxury, historically detailed."...

    The 13,000-square-foot school has sat vacant at 1090 10th St. N for decades. It still bears relics from its grade school days, and some of those historic frills are to be kept in the extensive renovation blending past and present.
  14. Luxury condos go from recession doom to boom

    Real Estate


    The fire sale of new condos at luxury high-rise Signature Place was a rare glittering spectacle during the darkest days of Tampa Bay's housing collapse.

    Hundreds of bargain hunters crowded a downtown ballroom to shout bids over platters of shrimp cocktail. Young women in skirts whisked winners to a closing room gleaming with flutes of champagne.

    When 51 condos in the 36-story sail-shaped skyscraper sold at deep discount — some of them at half-price — one auctioneer burst with joy: "Who said Florida's in trouble?"...

    SP_318581_LYTT_SIGNATURE_1 of 1 (02/09/2010 ST. PETERSBURG) Signature Place condos in St. Pete.
  15. Alfonso Soriano, Yankees All-Star, buys sprawling Tampa mansion for $2.7 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — New York Yankees All-Star Alfonso Soriano has a new home to relax in after spring training workouts at Steinbrenner Field, buying a sprawling mansion in Tampa's ritzy Avila country club for $2.7 million in cash.

    The 7,800-square-foot Mediterranean mansion, gated and guarded by lion statues, boasts seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a library and billiards room, "endless closets" and a 4,000-bottle wine room the size of a small apartment, a sales listing shows....

    NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Alfonso Soriano #12 of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 25, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)