Susan Taylor Martin, Times Staff Writer

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

Email: susan@tampabay.com

Blog: Hot Spots

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  1. Nice homes popping up in strange places as Tampa Bay economy awakens

    Real Estate

    For a brand-new home in St. Petersburg's Historic Uptown district, $351,220 will buy you four bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen and relative proximity to the city's lively downtown club and restaurant scene.

    But the two-story house comes with a few drawbacks. Located smack dab at a busy intersection, it offers an unappealing view of traffic lights, guide wires and telephone poles. And the neighborhood has one of the city's higher crime rates....

    St. Petersburg: A new home at 855 Ninth Ave. N was built near the busy intersection of Highland Street. The view from the front yard features telephone poles, guide wires and traffic.
  2. Tampa firm buys Universal Health Care's former St. Petersburg headquarters

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first two floors of Universal Health Care's former St. Petersburg headquarters have been bought by a Tampa real estate private equity firm.

    Convergent Capital Partners, whose growing portfolio includes the Hyatt Clearwater and Tampa's popular Jackson's Bistro, paid an undisclosed amount for 130,000 square feet of leasable space in the eight-story building at 100 Central Ave. The top six floors, used for parking, remain owned by the city. ...

    A Tampa firm bought the first two floors of the building. The top six, used for parking, are still owned by St. Petersburg.
  3. Century Oaks heads to auction with $8.5 million minimum bid

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Even for a spectacular property, $18.5 million seemed high. Turns out it was.

    Fifteen months after it went on the market for that princely sum, the 24,000-square-foot Century Oaks estate will be auctioned Oct. 11 with a reserve price of less than half the original asking amount.

    For as "little'' as $8.5 million, the winning bidder will get one of Tampa Bay's landmark properties, a Mediterranean-style mansion with 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a theater room, a library, a music room and a ballroom, all sitting on 3.5 lushly landscaped acres overlooking Clearwater Bay. ...

    The Century Oaks estate on the Clearwater waterfront features 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and more on 3.5 acres.
  4. Bill Gates investment fund will partner with Vinik on Channelside

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Bill Gates' riches will help fuel Jeff Vinik's vision.

    An investment fund controlled by Microsoft's billionaire founder will help finance the Tampa Bay Lightning owner's ambitious plan to build a massive entertainment, office, residential and retail district around the Amalie Arena.

    "This has the potential to be a billion-dollar development," said Vinik's top lieutenant, Tod Leiweke, during a 90-minute interview at the arena Thursday....

    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, right, is partnering with an investment fund controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, left, to develop a master plan for 24 acres Vinik owns around Amalie Arena. [AP photo, WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]
  5. Curious study finds Tampa's waterfront expensive, St. Petersburg's non-existent

    Real Estate

    Looking for an affordable waterfront home? Forget Tampa, where you could buy eight non-waterfront houses for the price of one median-priced place on the water.

    That's according to a new analysis by Zillow, the online real estate database, that found buyers have to pay a huge "premium'' to be on the water in Tampa.

    With the median price for waterfront homes 733 percent higher than for non-waterfront, the Cigar City ranks fourth on Zillow's list of 10 U.S. cities with sky-high premiums. Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County leads the pack at 1,154 percent, followed by Sarasota (1,132 percent) and Gary, Ind. (790 percent)....

    A report from Zillow identifies Tampa as having one of the nation’s highest price discrepancies between homes on the waterfront, such as this one in Harbour Island overlooking Seddon Channel, and non-waterfront homes.
  6. Home sales up slightly in Tampa Bay, though prices flat

    Real Estate

    Sales of single-family homes in the Tampa Bay area rose slightly in August though median sales prices remained flat.

    Bay area buyers closed on 3,596 homes last month, a 3.7 percent increase over the same period last year. And while the median price stalled at $160,000, that's not necessarily bad news.

    A big, rapid rise "would probably crash our economy again,'' said Dwight McDonald of International Realty Plus Tampa Bay. "The housing market did pick up and now it seems to be stabilizing. It's to everyone's advantage to stay steady, especially for working people.''...

  7. WestShore Plaza sold to company based in Maryland

    Retail

    TAMPA — WestShore Plaza, Tampa Bay's oldest mall, is getting a new owner.

    Washington Prime Group Inc., a real estate investment trust based in Bethesda, Md., will acquire the Tampa mall and nearly two dozen others as part of a $4.3 billion deal to buy Glimcher Realty Trust of Ohio.

    WestShore Plaza shoppers won't notice any changes — at least not in the foreseeable future....

    WestShore Plaza, Tampa Bay’s oldest mall, will be acquired by Washington Prime Group Inc., a real estate investment trust based in Bethesda, Md., as part of a $4.3 billion deal to buy Glimcher Realty Trust of Ohio.
  8. Remember Grand Bohemian plans? Prime St. Pete site still empty

    Business

    In 2008, the New York Times "Breaking Ground'' column highlighted a luxury project set to get under way in downtown St. Petersburg.

    Construction on the 28-story Grand Bohemian Hotel & Residences "is to begin this fall and be completed in 2010,'' the story said.

    Four years later, there are no residences, no hotel and no signs of activity on one of the most desirable pieces of vacant land in the booming downtown. A proposed sale last year fell through, and the future remains unclear even as a South Florida developer pushes ahead with plans for a 13-story hotel and 41-story condo tower on a nearby block. ...

  9. Pinellas widow gets letter: Sorry for your loss, now give the Social Security money back

    Human Interest

    Sheila Maas hadn't even planned her husband's memorial service when she received a curt letter last week from the Social Security Administration.

    "We are sorry to learn of your loss,'' the letter said, then got right to the point. She would have to pay back $227 in benefits that Joseph Maas had received for the month of August.

    The reason? The 88-year-old Maas, who died at 6:25 p.m. on Aug. 31, hadn't lived through the full month so he wasn't entitled to the money....

    Sheila Maas, 74, lost her husband of 44 years to cancer, about five hours before the end of August. Social Security said he hadn’t lived through the full month so he wasn’t entitled to benefits.
  10. PSTA gaffe leaves agency on hook in cleanup of old bus depot

    Local Government

    In January, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority agreed to pay $180,000 toward cleaning up soil and water contamination at the site of its former St. Petersburg bus depot.

    The agreement with the site's current owner, Angelo's Aggregate Materials, was supposed to fully release the PSTA from any future environmental claims.

    But because its legal staff failed to get the agreement in writing in January, the PSTA now finds itself potentially on the hook for thousands of dollars more in cleanup costs. ...

    Angelo’s Aggregate Materials owns the former bus depot site, 855 28th St. S in St. Petersburg, but it never agreed to let the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority off the hook for cleanup fees.
  11. Despite risks, airplane banner advertising a popular marketing tool

    Airlines

    Ever since a Wright Brothers biplane touting "Vin Fiz" soft drinks took off in 1911, companies have recognized the merits of advertising by air.

    Today, planes towing banners for everything from Verizon FIOS service to two-for-one drink specials are such a common sight that few folks think much about them until one crashes, as happened last weekend in St. Petersburg.

    Donald Thomasson, 70, a pilot for Aerial Banners Inc., was killed when his banner-towing plane nose-dived into the water near Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg. It was the third fatality this summer in a niche segment of the advertising industry that has had more than 250 accidents in the past 25 years, but which continues to be an economical and effective way to reach the masses....

    Planes that pull advertising banners remain a popular form of marketing, but the job comes with risks.
  12. In ranks of selling real estate, a scarcity of black Realtors and brokers

    Real Estate

    When Marcus Martin looks back on his years selling commercial real estate in Tampa, he's struck by how unusual that was.

    "Maybe one time did I come across an African-American agent other than myself," the Florida State graduate says, "and never in the commercial ranks."

    And while Martin, 38, has met other black Realtors since joining a St. Petersburg firm, he finds them "few and far between" in that city, too....

    Veteran Realtor Fayola Goldstone, 36, has already sold twice as many homes this year as the typical U.S. Realtor does in a year.
  13. For stating mind too bluntly, top foreclosure attorney faces professional reprimand

    News

    If you're thinking bad thoughts about a judge, it's best not to put them in a motion the judge will read.

    That's the lesson being learned by Mark Stopa, one of Tampa Bay's best-known foreclosure defense lawyers.

    The Florida Bar says Stopa "impugned the integrity" of a Polk County judge in a blistering motion that he dictated to an assistant but failed to read and remove "inappropriate language" before it was filed. ...

    Foreclosure lawyer Mark Stopa won’t fight the reprimand.
  14. Blackstone real estate giant buys Westin Harbour Island, Jackson's Bistro

    News

    TAMPA — The Westin Harbour Island hotel and its popular restaurant, Jackson's Bistro, are being sold for $46.5 million to Blackstone, one of the world's largest real estate investment firms.

    Owner Maurice Wilder said Friday that the sale, due to close Sept. 3, was prompted, in part, by his disgust with an ever-increasing number of federal regulations.

    "It causes a lot more work, and you've got to have other people to take care of that," said Wilder, whose Clearwater-based Wilder Corp. also recently sold 28,000 acres of agricultural land in Texas....

    People mix and mingle on the patio at Jackson's Bistro in Tampa. [Times 2013]
  15. St. Pete 'Glasshouse' three-story penthouse is all about the view

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — For the new owner of this glass house, there's no need to worry about people throwing stones: It's 34 stories up.

    A stunning trilevel penthouse atop the downtown Signature Place, the Glasshouse condo that has prompted so many upward gazes has just hit the market for $3.2 million. That will buy you black-veined marble floors, custom finishes and expansive views through the floor-to-ceiling windows that give the 4,177-square-foot condo its name. ...

    The Glasshouse, a stunning tri-level penthouse in downtown St. Petersburg's Signature Place, just hit the market for $3.2 million. That will get you black-veined marble floors, custom finishings and spectacular views through the floor-to-ceiling windows that give the 4,177-square-foot condo its name. [Smith & Associates Real Estate]