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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. Vinik home up north sells at discount, as couple builds in Sarasota


    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has one less house.

    According to, Vinik has sold his funky 19,306-square-foot mansion in Massachusetts for $10.3 million. That's $6.4 million below the asking price when it first hit the market a year and a half ago.

    That leaves Vinik with two homes in Tampa and one under construction in Sarasota.

    Vinik, who got his MBA from the Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass., steered the Fidelity Magellan Fund to 17 percent annual returns before starting his own Boston-based hedge fund. ...

    Stairway at Jeff Vinik’s former Weston, Mass., home
  2. Canadians put hope in new bill that would let them stay longer in United States



    Along about May 1 each year, Ted and Margo Footitt start dreading going home after their six-month stay in Florida. That's because home is Ontario, where May temperatures can drop into the 20s.

    "We have to be back by mid May and sometimes you can be shoveling snow in May,'' the 78-year-old Ted said. "Not at my age.''

    For Canadians like the Footitts, U.S. immigration law limits to 182 days — six months — the time they can spend warming their bones in Tampa Bay and other parts of the United States. But for the first time in many years, there are signs that could change....

    Ted and Margo Footitt of Ontario, Canada, pictured in the living room of their second-floor condo that looks out over the pool area and the rest of the complex at The Sylvette in St Pete Beach. They spend six months out of the year in there. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  3. Lawsuit targets proposed Bliss condo in downtown St. Petersburg

    Real Estate

    It's called "Bliss," but that's hardly the word to describe how some people feel about the 18-story condo tower proposed for downtown St. Petersburg.

    A resident of the nearby Parkshore Plaza is suing the city, claiming it should not have approved plans for Bliss because the project is too big for its site and violates the city's comprehensive plan.

    In a separate suit, the Parkshore condo association says Bliss' unique garage that would use elevators to ferry cars to higher floors would clog a busy alley and violate the city's parking ordinances....

    Bliss, an 18-story luxury condo tower proposed for downtown St. Petersburg. [Courtesy of Smith & Associates]
  4. Lao Conference of Churches moving headquarters to St. Petersburg

    Real Estate

    It's not quite the relocation Tampa Bay business leaders have been expecting. But it's a relocation nonetheless.

    Lured by a great deal on a church whose own membership is shrinking, the Lao Conference of Churches is moving its national headquarters from California to St. Petersburg. The city already has about 1,000 residents of Laotian origin and could gain more with the conference based in Tampa Bay, its CEO predicts. ...

    Though valued at nearly $1.8 million, the Lao conference got the buildings for $200,000.
  5. Home sales in Pinellas and Hillsborough finish 2014 with a flurry

    Real Estate

    After a sluggish start to 2014, home sales in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties finished with a bang in December in another sign the housing market is well on its way to a full recovery.

    Sales of single-family homes in Pinellas soared 40.5 percent last month compared to the same period a year earlier while sales for all of 2014 rose 9 percent.

    Across the bay in Hillsborough, home sales shot up nearly 16 percent in December, the highest month-over-month gain in 2014. For the year, sales increased 2.6 percent. ...

  6. These were the most expensive homes sold in Tampa Bay in 2014

    Real Estate

    Golf course — good. Waterfront — better. Of the 10 most expensive homes sold in Tampa Bay in 2014, just two overlook greens and fairways, while eight boast the spectacular waterfront views that have long lured high-end buyers. A fitness guru shelled out $6.7 million in August for a Belleair Beach estate, making it the year's top local sale. The owners of a Michigan company spent $5.5 million to enjoy sunsets from a 7,000-square-foot mansion on a private island with a helipad in Ruskin. ...

    SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  7. Miami real estate firm cites St. Pete's 'sizzle' for Kenwood apartment plans

    Real Estate

    A Miami real estate company that likes St. Petersburg's "sizzle'' is planning a major addition to an existing 178-unit apartment development in the historic Kenwood area.

    Altis Cardinal is acquiring 10 1/2 acres next to its Skyline Fifth, a renovated high-rise at 441 33rd St. N that is almost fully occupied with singles and young couples.

    Frank Guerra, a principal of the company, said Altis expects to break ground by year's end on the first phase of an expansion that will transform a six-story building next door into 76 airy one- and two-bedroom units....

    Skyline Fifth, a 178-unit apartment building in St. Petersburg, was bought by Altis Cardinal of Miami in 2012. The company will transform a six-story building next door into 76 airy one- and two-bedroom units.
  8. More people go to real estate school as Florida housing market improves

    Real Estate

    Along with rising prices and a growing number of sales, here's another sign of Florida's rejuvenated housing market: more real estate agents.

    Last year, 24,183 people passed the state test required to become licensed sales associates. That was 36 percent more than in 2013 and by far the most since 2009.

    "We started seeing the increase in 2012 and it's been a steady increase since," said Bob Hogue, whose St. Petersburg-based real estate school prepared 6,500 students for the test last year. "And it's been building for the right reason; in other words, it's not crazy price increases."...

    New real estate agent Michelle Steeves, left, and her mother, Sylvia Steeves, stand outside the Coastal Properties office in Belleair. The younger Steeves sees a dynamic combination with her marketing skills and her mother’s experience.
  9. Foreign buyers gobbling up Tampa Bay properties


    When they moved to the Tampa Bay area six years ago, Brazilian-born physicians Joana Machry and Geraldo Ramos leased a two-bedroom condo in downtown St. Petersburg.

    As their family grew, they decided in 2011 to buy a larger condo, also downtown. Then in 2013, they bought a Pass-a-Grille beach house that they rent out when they and their two boys aren't using it as a weekend getaway.

    Both places have shot up in value, confirming the couple's instincts that the bay area would be a good place to live, work and also make some smart real estate plays. ...

    A half-mile stretch of Oceanview Drive in Tierra Verde has Tampa Bay’s most valuable concentration of foreign-owned single-family homes, many of which are bought with cash.
  10. Out of his castle, coin dealer moves to 'small' $1.3 million house

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Only when your previous home is the size of an English castle could your new 3,545-square-foot residence be considered "small.''

    That's how a lawyer for former coin dealer Mark Yaffe recently described the luxurious Harbour Island townhome that Yaffe has rented since a bank foreclosed on his 29,000-square-foot Avila estate.

    "What, do you want me to live in a trailer in the ghetto?'' Yaffe said Monday when asked about his new digs....

    Mark Yaffe’s National Gold Exchange went bankrupt in 2009 with $36 million in debts.
  11. Clean lines, modern designs emerge in traditional Tampa Bay neighborhoods

    Real Estate

    Amid the bungalows, the low-slung ranches, the Mediterranean-style revivals that have characterized so much of Tampa Bay's housing for so long, a different look is taking hold.

    The modern home.

    With their clean lines, open spaces and expansive use of glass, they flow smoothly from indoors to out and bespeak an uncluttered, yet sophisticated lifestyle.

    "Our motto is 'less but better,' " said Richard McGinniss, owner of Modern Tampa Bay Homes. "We strive for that elegant mix of simplicity with attention to detail, which looks simple but actually is very complicated to make it work."...

    This 4,800-square-foot home, built for $1.2 million in 2012, faces Tampa Bay on Bayshore Boulevard in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood. (SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |   Times)
  12. Burying St. Joseph statues boosts faith that real estate will sell

    Real Estate

    Throughout the holiday season, St. Joseph is in plain view, the familiar figure in manger scenes with Mary and the baby Jesus.

    But for much of the year, Joseph goes underground.

    All over the Tampa Bay area, little plastic Josephs lie buried in lawns large and small, lush and scraggly. They are interred there by people who are trying to sell their homes and hope that St. Joseph will find them a buyer....

    Sylvia Sierra, owner of St. Anthony’s Catholic Gift Shop in Tampa, say she tells customers that it’s their faith in St. Joseph that’s important to the sale of their homes.
  13. In Tampa's Westshore, 10-story Westshore 500 building acquired


    TAMPA — Westshore 500, a 10-story office building near WestShore Plaza mall, has been sold to an Atlanta company for an undisclosed price.

    It is the second Tampa office building acquired this year by Fairlead Commercial Real Estate, a private real estate investment firm. Last summer it bought the 19-story Fifth Third Center in downtown Tampa for $47.25 million, about $4 million less than what the previous owners paid, records show...

  14. Ex-gold dealer Mark Yaffe's Avila estate sells, finally, at deep discount

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Somebody got a bargain.

    The palatial Avila estate built by former gold dealer Mark Yaffe has been sold for $5.58 million, 78 percent less than its original asking price of $25 million.

    At $193 a square foot — well below that for most upscale properties — the total price still ranks as the second-highest paid for any home or condo in the Tampa Bay area this year. ...

    Modeled after a 17th century royal palace, the Jacobean manor boasts 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a grand ballroom, a marble-floored basketball court, 14 fireplaces and 15,000 square feet of terraces. [My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service]
  15. Florida overtakes New York as third most populous state


    Start spreading the news, New York: Florida has just taken a big bite out of the Big Apple.

    Florida has officially overtaken New York as the third-most populous state in the country, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

    By adding an average of 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014, Florida grew a total of 293,000 over the period, reaching 19.9 million, the Census Bureau said. The population of New York increased by only 51,000 to 19.7 million....