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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. C1 Bank CEO sells waterfront lot after owning it less than six months

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Less than six months after paying $1.8 million for a waterfront St. Petersburg house and demolishing it, the head of C1 Bank and his husband have sold the vacant lot for a $150,000 profit.

    Records show that Long Drive Properties LLC paid Trevor Burgess, the bank's CEO, and Gary Hess $1.95 million for the large corner lot on North Shore Drive near downtown St. Petersburg. ...

    Trevor Burgess 
made $150,000 in profit on the downtown St. Petersburg lot.
  2. Developer: Tampa Tribune site will be mid-rise rental apartments

    Real Estate

    MIAMI — A mid-rise residential project planned for the Tampa Tribune's riverfront headquarters will be rental apartments and not condos, its developer says, and likely will eliminate the paper's printing plant operations on the site.

    "It's all gone," Jorge Perez, founder and CEO of the Related Group, said Thursday when asked what would happen to the Tribune's printing operations there....

  3. Tampa's University Mall to get major facelift, new anchors and restaurants

    Economic Development

    One of Tampa Bay's oldest — and dreariest — malls is getting a major facelift.

    University Mall near the University of South Florida will get three new anchor tenants and two new free-standing restaurants as part of a renovation that could start early next year, the commercial real estate and investment firm CBRE announced Monday.

    The transformation of the 41-year-old mall will include the addition of "lush landscaping, water features and seating areas offering visitors a comfortable place to enjoy the Florida weather,'' a news release said. ...

    University Mall near the University of South Florida will get three new anchor tenants and two new free-standing restaurants as part of a renovation that could start early next year.
  4. Tampa Bay home sales not as robust in May as in previous months

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home sales slowed slightly in May with year-over-year gains not as dramatic as in recent months.

    For the metro area, which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, the number of single family homes sold in May rose 11.4 percent from a year ago, but was less than the number changing owners in April. Most of the decline came in Pinellas.

    After climbing several months, "home sales have leveled out a bit,'' a statement from the Pinellas Realtor Organization said Monday. "Partnered with the recent slight increase in interest rates and decreasing inventory, that's enough to burst anyone's bubble talk.'' ...

    Private island in Ruskin that sold in May for $2.775 million from Coldwell Banker
  5. Tampa Bay judges crack down on serial bankruptcy filers

    Real Estate

    Rodney Brown thought he had found a way to keep the bank from foreclosing on his Spring Hill home even though he hadn't made a mortgage payment in at least five years.

    In April, Brown declared bankruptcy, a move that immediately stops any foreclosure action. That might have worked, except Brown has declared bankruptcy so often that Tampa bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen finally had enough....

    Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen.
  6. Tampa real estate investor's advice: Get into rental properties

    Real Estate

    Chris Smith had just graduated from the University of West Florida in 2003 when he saw a foreclosed house he admired. He tracked down the Tennessee bank that owned it, and got what he calls "a really good deal.''

    Smith was hooked. After moving to Tampa in 2005 to help with his dad's vinyl repair business, he started buying and selling houses, "rode the market down like everybody else,'' then rebounded along with the economy. ...

    Chris Smith’s Bay to Gulf Holdings has bought and sold about 3,000 Tampa Bay properties in the past decade.
  7. Police advice to Realtors: Every agent is a target but don't carry a gun

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Given the recent armed robberies of two Tampa Bay real estate agents, many Realtors are wondering if they should start carrying a gun.

    "No!'' St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway emphatically said Friday. "That person's going to take that gun away from you.''

    Holloway was addressing dozens of members of the Pinellas Realtor Organization at a seminar on how to protect themselves in the wake of the June 3 robberies. A retired Air Force major is awaiting trial on charges that he lured two female agents to empty houses and robbed them at gunpoint, shackling his first victim at the hands and feet while he called her husband demanding a $50,000 ransom. ...

    “These guys will play on the fact that you want to make the sale. 
Are you in a risky business? Yes.” Chip Wells, St. Petersburg police officer
  8. Years after vacating their homes, borrowers still can be stuck with HOA fees

    Real Estate

    Seven years ago, Renee Abuton realized she was juggling too much — student loans, car payments, mortgage payments and homeowners association fees.

    Abuton, then a single parent, declared bankruptcy and let the mortgage company repossess her Pasco County home. Once the company had the property, she figured, it would start paying the HOA fees.


    Although Abuton had been locked out in 2008, the lender didn't take title to the house until several years later. In the meantime, while the house remained in her name, she was responsible for all HOA fees that accrued....

    Renee Abuton holds a letter that says she owes thousands in unpaid HOA dues on a home she hasn’t lived in since 2008.
  9. New service alerts Pinellas property owners to possible fraud

    Real Estate

    Pinellas County property owners can now get alerts about possibly fraudulent activity involving deeds, affidavits or other official records.

    The Pinellas Clerk of Court Office is the first in Florida and among the few in the nation to offer the new property fraud alert system for free to those who sign up.

    "This is a wonderful tool,'' said Vanessa Castrogiovanni, the office's communications coordinator. "A lot of people don't really check filings in official records so if somebody is recording something under your name you are alerted right away.'' ...

  10. Nearly 100,000 Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    Despite rising values, nearly 100,000 Tampa Bay borrowers still owe more than their homes are worth.

    As of the end of March, almost one in five bay area homes with mortgages had negative equity, according to report released Friday by the real estate site Zillow. And almost 60 percent of those were so underwater that the owners owed more than 120 percent of the home's value.

    That means values would have to rise more than 20 percent for the owners to have any chance of breaking even on a sale. ...

  11. Tampa judge becomes chief of one of nation's busiest bankruptcy courts


    The bankruptcy court for Florida's Middle District, one of the busiest in the nation, is getting a new chief judge.

    On Oct. 1, Judge Michael G. Williamson of Tampa will begin a four-year term overseeing a district that includes four divisions and spans a 35-county area from Jacksonville to Fort Myers.

    "Judge Williamson brings years of experience, management skills and a deep and abiding love of this court that will take us further along our way to excellence,'' the current chief judge, Karen Jennemann of Orlando, said Friday. Her term expires Sept. 30. ...

    Tampa Judge Michael G. Williamson takes over on Oct. 1.
  12. Why some Tampa Bay homes sit on the market for years

    Real Estate

    Kids who finished kindergarten this year hadn't been born when the 6,500-square-foot home in northern Hillsborough County first hit the market.

    As nearby properties changed hands, the Odessa house sat unsold through two presidential elections, a recession, a recovery and enough celebrity gossip to fill seven years of People magazine.

    Finally, after 2,552 days with no buyer in sight, the listing expired in January. ...

    This four-bedroom, 61/2-bath house in Odessa was on the market for nearly seven years. But at $2.65?million, it was priced too high for property that abuts a conservation area but isn’t right on Lake Keystone or another lovely lake.
  13. Cash deals account for more than half of Tampa Bay home sales

    Real Estate

    At both the low and high ends of Tampa Bay's real estate market, cash still talks.

    In March, a retired executive and his wife paid $2.55 million in cash for an Indian Shores condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

    The same month, all but six of the 134 homes and condos that changed hands for $50,000 or less in Hillsborough County were cash deals.

    Even as it becomes slightly easier to get a mortgage, cash continues to fuel the housing recovery in Tampa Bay, a report released Thursday by the data provider CoreLogic shows....

    This condo in Indian Shores sold for $2.55 million in cash on March 16. The Tampa Bay area continues to have a high number of homes sold for cash, particularly homes that are expensive and those that are cheap.
  14. Red hot Tampa Bay apartment market means rents are on the rise

    Real Estate

    Victoria Clark's family may be the best example of why Tampa Bay's apartment vacancy rate is at the lowest level in years.

    Clark and her three kids live at the Gateway on 4th Apartment Homes in north St. Petersburg. Her sister lives in the Meadows, a rental complex next door. And their parents retired to Viera Bayside, a gated rental community less than a mile away.

    "I like apartment living because of all the amenities like the pool, the gym, the park, the playground,'' Clark, 42, said Tuesday as she toweled off after a swim. "It's clean, the grounds are kept well, I don't have to worry about the upkeep or the pool, which my kids are in all the time.''...

    Brenda Armstrong, 61, of St. Petersburg, a resident of Inlet Bay at Gateway Apartments, spends time on her outdoor deck with her cat "George," on Tuesday. She is a Master Massage Therapist and owns a company called A Touch of Wellness. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  15. Tampa Bay foreclosures continue to drop

    Real Estate

    The number of Tampa Bay borrowers losing their homes to foreclosure continues to drop.

    In the 12-month period ending in April, lenders repossessed 16,664 bay area homes, a 2.6 percent decline compared with the previous year, data provider CoreLogic reported on Tuesday.

    The percentage of Tampa Bay borrowers who were "seriously delinquent'' on their mortgages also decreased, with 7.7 percent at least 90 days late on their payments compared with more than 10 percent in April 2014....