Make us your home page

Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent

Susan Taylor Martin

For someone who doesn't particularly care to fly, Tampa Bay Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin has logged a lot of hours in the air — in the past decade she has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and China. She covered the invasion of Iraq, the war in Kosovo and the war against terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On 9/11, she and two other Times staffers got in Martin's aging car and drove 24 hours nonstop from Tampa Bay to New York City, her hometown. Among the other breaking stories Susan has covered were the death and funeral of Princess Diana, the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein and the handover of Hong Kong to China. There have been lighter moments, too. Martin has written about a restaurant in Jerusalem dedicated to Elvis Presley's memory; a Scottish hamlet that finally got TV and hated it; and the gay and transvestite scene in Turkey, a conservative Muslim country. Her hobbies include figure skating, antiquing, flea-marketing, and rooting for the Blue Devils basketball team of Duke University (her alma mater).

Martin has won numerous state and national journalism awards, including the 2007 Paul Hansell Award presented by the Florida Society of News Editors for distinguished writing and reporting.

Phone: (727) 893-8642


Blog: Hot Spots

  1. Homebuilder backs out of deal to buy Tampa's A La Carte Pavilion

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — A Texas-based homebuilder has backed out of its multi-million dollar deal to buy the A La Carte Pavilion, a popular event venue, and build an upscale waterfront community on the 15-acre site.

    David Weekley Homes notified Egypt Shriners last month that it would not go through with the purchase, James Lich, chief rabban, or first vice president, of Egypt Shriners, said Tuesday. ...

    A Texas-based homebuilder has backed out of plans to buy the A la Carte Pavilion on Dana Shores Drive in Tampa and turn the space into homes. 

  2. Developer learning hard lessons turning old St. Petersburg school into shops

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Renovating an old building can be just as expensive as building a new one.

    That's what developer Jonathan Daou has discovered while converting St. Petersburg's century-old North Ward school into shops, a restaurant and a yoga studio. He says he has already spent $300,000 more than expected and has put further work on hold while city staffers review plans and permit applications. ...

    Jonathan Daou says he has spent $300,000 more than expected to renovate the old North Ward school in St. Petersburg.
  3. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman puts his Tampa home up for sale for $2 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Three years after he was canned, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has put his gated Bayshore Boulevard estate on the market for just under $2 million.

    The onetime Kansas State star bought the 5,837-square-foot, three-story home in 2010, a year after he became the Bucs' first-round draft pick and youngest quarterback in the team's history. In addition to six bedrooms and six baths, the house boasts a theater room and a large game room with balcony overlooking an outdoor grilling area, heated pool and spa. ...

    The Bayshore Boulevard home of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer quarterback Josh Freeman is on the market for just under $2 million. Photo courtesy Michael Blitch.
  4. Tampa Bay home prices continue to skyrocket this summer

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home prices soared nearly 17 percent in June, the biggest year-over-year jump since last summer and the second-highest increase of any Florida metro area.

    At the same time, the number of bay area sales in June showed zero change from a year ago — another sign that prices are being driven up by the extremely tight supply of available homes.

    "It is still apparent we have more buyers than sellers in our market,'' said Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president for Coldwell Banker. "The (bank-owned) and short-sale listings are down to the lowest levels in over 10 years.''...

    This beachfront contemporary home on Gulf Boulevard in Belleair Shore sold in June for $6.15 million, the most paid for any residence that month in the Tampa Bay area. It had been the winter home of Iowa businessman and philanthropist Richard O. Jacobson. Photo by Cary John Photography.
  5. Here's what the Tampa lawyer who now leads the Florida Bar has to say about the legal profession


    As the new president of the Florida Bar, Tampa lawyer William J. Schifino Jr. is starting out on a relatively low-key note. And that's probably fine with everyone.

    At this time last year, the Bar's 103,000 members were embroiled in a bitter controversy over reciprocity — letting out-of-state lawyers practice in Florida without taking the Florida Bar exam. Then-president Ramon Abadin spent much of his year in office dealing with critics who claimed reciprocity was a crazy idea at a time when many Florida lawyers and recent law school graduates were struggling financially. ...

    Schifino earned his law degree from UF.
  6. Former Bucs coach Greg Schiano sells Tampa home for near-record $6.6M

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano has sold his Culbreath Isles home for $6.625 million, the second-biggest residential sale ever in Hillsborough County.

    Schiano and his wife, Christina, built the 10,850-square-foot mansion in 2013, the same year the Bucs fired him and general manager Mark Dominik after a 7-9 season.

    The buyer was a land trust with Tampa attorney Robert S. Walton as trustee. ...

    Greg Schiano built the Culbreath Isles home in 2013, the year he was fired as the Bucs’ head coach.
  7. Charlie Crist's beach house on Pass-a-Grille is about to hit the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETE BEACH — It looks like former Florida governor and current congressional candidate Charlie Crist no longer needs a beachhead on St. Pete Beach.

    A Realtor's "Available soon'' sign has sprouted at the 1,480-square- foot cottage Crist and his wife, Carole, bought last year when new congressional district boundaries were still uncertain. But once that issue was settled, the Crists found themselves with two homes in the same district — the modest beach place and a 2,700-square- foot luxury condo in downtown St. Petersburg. ...

    A St Pete Beach house owned by former Florida governor and current Congressional candidate Charlie Crist and his wife Carole is about to hit the market. They bought the beach-view house last year when it was still uncertain where new congressional district lines would be drawn.

 Photo by Susan Taylor Martin.
  8. Billionaire developer split on 2016 race: 'Both of them are my friends'


    John Catsimatidis, whose New York-based Red Apple Group is buying a prime block in downtown St. Petersburg, made his fortune in groceries, oil and real estate. But it's politics that has often kept him in the news.

    The Greek-American bilionaire has contributed to a variety of Democratic and Republican campaigns though he has been described as especially "loyal'' to the Clintons. In 2008, he hosted fundraisers that raised more than $750,000 for the presidential race of Hillary Clinton, who attended his daughter's wedding. He also is close to Bill Clinton, who has flown on Catsimatidis-owned planes....

    Businessman John A. Catsimatidis.
  9. Billionaire developer says 'St. Pete needs a skyline' in revealing soaring tower to replace 'cheese grater' building

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — New York's Red Apple Group is returning to the Florida market in a big way — its plans for a prime block in downtown St. Petersburg include what could be one of the tallest buildings on Florida's west coast.

    "St. Pete needs a skyline,'' John Catsimatidis, the company's billionaire owner, said in a phone interview Thursday.

    Red Apple, which is under contract to buy the block of 400 Central Avenue, released a rendering of a sleek tower that Catsimatidis said would be about the height of ONE St. Petersburg, the 41-story building under construction a few blocks farther east on Central. ...

    The proposed St. Pe?tersburg tower could be 41 stories.
  10. Sadie Daiquiri and other phony foreclosure auction bidders are profitable ploy for Tampa company

    Real Estate

    Several times this year, a woman with the intriguing name of Sadie Daiquiri has been the winning bidder at Tampa Bay foreclosure auctions.

    Daiquiri has an intriguing address, too — 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City. That's a 49-story tower near the United Nations headquarters that houses the permanent missions of France, Italy and several other countries.

    But it turns out that there is no Sadie Daiquiri in Manhattan, or anywhere else. So it wasn't totally surprising that she defaulted on the bids, failed to pay up and forced the auctions to be rescheduled. ...

    Sadie Daiquiri won a foreclosure auction for this home in Riverview in April but then failed to pay. The owner had deeded the house to HOA Problem Solutions, which is under investigation by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office.
  11. New York developer to buy entire downtown St. Petersburg block for major project

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A New York company headed by a Greek-American billionaire who owns Manhattan's largest grocery story chain is under contract to buy and redevelop an entire block in downtown St. Petersburg.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman said late Friday that he is having lunch next week with John Catsimatidis of the Red Apple Group to discuss plans for the 400 block of Central Avenue, now the site of a crumbling garage and the infamous "cheese grater'' building. Caught in limbo for a decade, it is arguably the most valuable parcel available for development downtown....

    An entire block in downtown St. Petersburg, including the 1920s hotel dubbed the “cheese grater’’ building and a crumbling parking garage, will be demolished. Plans may include a new hotel.
  12. Hilton in downtown Tampa has sold for $101 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — In one of Tampa Bay's largest-ever hotel transactions, the Hilton Tampa Downtown has sold for $101 million.

    Only the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Hilton Clearwater Beach have commanded higher prices.

    CrossHarbor Capital Partners closed this week on buying the 520-room, full-service Hilton in the heart of downtown Tampa, according to the deed filed in Hillsborough County court records....

    Built in 1982, the 18-story Hilton has a rooftop sun deck, an outdoor pool, a Starbucks and two restaurants. It last sold in 2012 for $63 million, when it was converted from a Hyatt.
  13. Airbnb partiers at million-dollar Tierra Verde mansion trigger complaints

    Real Estate

    Even at $999 a night, Robert Lauby had no trouble finding renters for the 5,500-square-foot waterfront home in Tierra Verde that he listed on the popular website Airbnb.

    "Seriously, it was the best Airbnb experience ever!'' raved one group of guests, who shared the five-bedroom, five-bath mansion in March. "Great experience in St. Petersburg!'' enthused the "eight guys'' who rented in May. ...

    Between Jan. 30 and June 13, Pinellas sheriff’s deputies responded to 17 reports of domestic disturbances and loud parties at this million-dollar waterfront home in Tierra Verde.
  14. Buccaneer Jameis Winston buys Mediterranean-style mansion in Odessa

    Real Estate

    ODESSA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be starting his second season as a homeowner.

    Winston paid $1.195 million last week for a Mediterranean-style mansion on an acre fronting Lake Keystone in Odessa, Multiple Listing Service records show .

    The 5,400-square-foot home features 10-foot mahogany ceilings, a winding staircase, a music room and a formal dining room. The first-floor master bedroom "beckons you as a private oasis with its elegant master bath complete with walk-thru shower with triple heads, a Jacuzzi tub and his and her sinks,'' the listing says....

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston paid $1.195 million last week for a Mediterranean-style mansion on an acre fronting Lake Keystone in Odessa, Multiple Listing Service records show. [MLS]
  15. Lawyers' mailings to troubled homeowners get more frequent and desperate as foreclosures fall

    Real Estate

    One South Florida lawyer provides a "complimentary motion'' that homeowners can file in court. A Clearwater company encloses a hand-written check for $3,000. And there's seemingly no end to the "free consultations.''

    It's all part of a bid to grab some of Tampa Bay's shrinking mortgage foreclosure business.

    With the number of new foreclosure filings down dramatically, lawyers, investors and others are deluging distressed homeowners with offers of help....

    Elzie Mahoney, owner of Mahoney Auto Repair in St. Petersburg, looks through the direct-mail solicitations he has received recently. He has ignored them and hired a lawyer.