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. 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.
  2. 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. ...

  3. 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....

    A letter from Social Security told Sheila Mass that she would have to pay back $227 in benefits her husband received for August because that the agency does not pay benefits for the month of death.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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....

    “Who you know makes a difference,” Valerie Norris says.
  7. 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.
  8. 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....

    Jackson’s Bistro will be resold immediately, said Maurice Wilder, whose Wilder Corp. owns the restaurant and hotel.
  9. 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]
  10. Despite owing $90,000 in back taxes, developer was appointed to county board

    Local Government

    Based on a glowing recommendation, Pinellas County commissioners in April unanimously appointed developer Roger Broderick to the board of a county agency that promotes affordable housing.

    Broderick's experience will be "immensely beneficial'' to the Pinellas Housing Finance Authority, its executive director and chairman wrote in a memo to commissioners.

    What the memo didn't say: Broderick owes nearly $90,000 in delinquent county property taxes. And he has more than two dozen properties in foreclosure, including land once slated for a county affordable housing project....

    Roger Broderick owns nearly 100 properties in Pinellas.
  11. Realtors check out peers' properties, even pink and purple ones, on tours

    Real Estate

    REDINGTON SHORES

    It's an ordinary Thursday in this Pinellas County beach community — except for the "Open House'' signs pointing crazily in all directions.

    "This way, I think," real estate agent Julia Brazier says, steering her Lexus toward 176th Terrace and the first stop on her list, a three-bedroom, two-bath waterfront bungalow.

    "It's purple!" Brazier exclaims.

    Mermaids flank the baby pink front door, which opens into a fuchsia living room, which overlooks a large deck with bubble gum-pink railings....

    From left in foreground, real estate agent Roy Pate of the Vorac Group, Carla Bolling of Florida Mortgage Advantage, and Laura Canali and Amanda Vilar, both of the Vorac Group, evaluate a Redington Shores home during a tour. In background, John and Jan Strakele of Dallas take advantage of the open house to look around. They are remodeling a vacation home nearby.
  12. Should Realtor's bankruptcy derail treasurer eligibility?

    News

    With a bankruptcy and pending foreclosure, Christine Hansen would find it nearly impossible to buy a house or get a mortgage.

    Yet Hansen, 49, is in line to become treasurer and eventual president of Florida Realtors, the powerful organization whose mission is to "advance Florida's real estate industry.''

    Supporters say Hansen's financial problems should not preclude her from serving next year as volunteer treasurer of the 127,000 member organization....

    Christine Hansen is in line to become treasurer and eventual president of Florida Realtors, the powerful organization whose mission is to "advance Florida's real estate industry.'' [Photo courtesy of media.floridarealtors.org]
  13. A Tampa taxi odyssey: Are our cabs really not up to snuff?

    News

    TAMPA — The taxi cabs here might not be the newest, swankiest ones on Earth. But are they really the "deplorable, embarrassing" pigsties that one critic alleges?

    Hotel developer Lou Plasencia blasted the city's taxi industry during a recent meeting of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association. Tampa cabs, which also go to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, give visitors a bad impression of the area, he complained. ...

    John Bailey drives the streets of downtown Tampa in the taxi he leases from A-1 cab company. A-1 drivers are self-employed and required to provide their own receipts, a dispatcher said.
  14. Florida's swollen ranks of lawyers scrap for piece of a shrinking legal pie

    Business

    Ask Jason Fraser how many jobs he applied for after graduating from law school last year and this is what he says:

    "Maybe 10 or 20 when it was someplace I wanted to work. Maybe 50 when I started getting desperate.''

    After searching from Ocala to Miami, Fraser finally landed a public defender's post in Pasco County in June. But his months of job-hunting raises another question, one that nags at many in the legal profession:...

    Thomas Cooley Law School in Riverview in Hillsborough County opened in 2012, bringing to 12 the number of accredited law schools in Florida. In the past 15 years, Florida has gained 30,000 lawyers and five law schools, including the private, nonprofit Michigan-based Cooley.
  15. At elegant Signature Place in St. Pete, nothing classy about Unit 2403

    Crime

    One January evening last year, St. Petersburg police got multiple calls about "yelling and banging'' in an unusual location: a $500,000 condo in the luxury high-rise Signature Place.

    Two officers quickly made their way to Unit 2403, where they found the door kicked in. On the floor inside, they saw broken glass, droplets of blood and several braids yanked from the head of a young woman brawling with two older men. ...

    Since late 2012, many of the police calls have involved Trimetrius Denise Austin.