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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

Email: susan@tampabay.com

Blog: Hot Spots

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  1. Tampa Bay home prices shoot up 11 percent, kicking off another strong year

    Real Estate

    Another year; another super start.

    Prices for single-family homes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 11.4 percent in January from a year ago, higher than the statewide average and the highest of any major Florida metro area.

    The number of sales that closed last month also rose significantly — up 10 percent — in a sign that the robust market that began in early 2016 will continue. ...

    This home on Davis Islands sold for nearly $6.3 million in late January, making it 2017's  first bay area  sale over $6 million.
[Smith & Associates]
  2. Renovation of small St. Petersburg building gets big attention

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the past few years, downtown St. Petersburg has gained more than 2,000 new rental units. But it was a 12-unit apartment building dating to Harry Truman's presidency that recently drew kudos from Mayor Rick Kriseman and other civic leaders.

    Built in 1948, the Prince Gregor Apartments at 844 5th Ave. S have been restored to their Art Deco glory by a Canadian couple who became smitten with the place on visits to relatives in St. Petersburg....

  3. Fannie Mae puts once-contaminated Snell Isle house back on the market

    Real Estate

    ST, PETERSBURG — It's baaaaack.

    A year after pulling a sewage-contaminated house off the market, Fannie Mae has relisted it at the same $419,900 price. Now, though, it comes with a partly gutted interior and an acknowledgement that at one point it really did have a serious mold problem.

    Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage insurer, says tests show that the foreclosed house in the upscale Snell Isle-Eden Isle area is now free of harmful mold. But Fannie Mae's decision to list the house in 2016 despite strong evidence of mold has raised questions about the safety of other foreclosed homes it has sold. ...

    When Fannie Mae listed the Snell Isle house in 2016, the interior including the kitchen appeared to be in good shape if dated. [As shown on MLS website]
  4. Atlanta company buys Tampa apartment community for $58.5 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — In the second major bay area apartment sale in two weeks, an Atlanta company has bought the St. Croix Apartments in north Tampa for $58.5 million.

    The Radco Cos., which closed on the deal Thursday, said it plans to rename the 540-unit complex Radius Tampa Palms and spend $7 million on renovations.

    Built between 1988 and 1990, the complex is on 27 acres just off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and consists of 25 two- and three-story buildings with garden-style apartments. In a release, Radco noted that the location is improving thanks to the widening of Bruce B. Downs to eight lanes. The complex has its own traffic light on that busy thoroughfare. ...

    An Atlanta-based company has bought the 540-unit  St. Croix Apartments in Tampa Palms for $58.5 million.
[Credit: JBM Institutional Multifamily Advisers]
  5. New York developer Red Apple Group pays $2.6 million for downtown St. Petersburg arcade

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The New York firm under contract to buy and redevelop a prime downtown block has purchased an historic building directly across the street.

    Red Apple Group paid $2.625 million this month for the Florida Arcade, a 1920 structure at 449 Central Ave. that now houses the popular Il Ritorno restaurant, the Kalamazoo Olive Co. and several other shops and offices.

    The company, headed by billionaire John Catsimatidis, did not return calls for comment Tuesday morning so it is unknown what it plans for the arcade or whether the current tenants will remain. But at least part of the 15,000-square-foot building presumably could house sales and construction offices for Red Apple's project on the 400 block of Central across the street. ...

    The New York company under contract to buy the 400 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg paid $2.625 million this  month for the historic  Florida Arcade  building directly across the street.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Times]

  6. More people want to be real estate agents in Florida, though it's a tough profession to crack

    Real Estate

    This time last year, Ashley Williams of Clearwater was getting ready to take her Florida real estate exam. She passed, and at age 20 launched a new career.

    Has she found real estate very competitive?

    "It's like sharks out there,'' she says.

    At a time when the number of homes for sale remains unusually low, the ranks of real estate agents vying for listings continues to swell. Williams was among the 32,954 first-time applicants who took the state exam in 2016, the most in 10 years. And including repeat test-takers, the number of people who passed — 27,926 — brought Florida's total of currently licensed agents to almost 250,000....

    Ashley Williams is among the 32,954 first-time applicants who took the Florida real estate exam in 2016, the most in 10 years. She passed the test, but is finding it a difficult profession for newcomers. 
[

SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |    Times]
  7. Miami company closes on $11.81 million deal for prime tract on Tampa end of Gandy Bridge

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Redevelopment of a prime but long-vacant waterfront site in South Tampa got a major boost this week.

    Miami-based Related Group closed Friday on its $11.81 million purchase of a 8.5 acre tract in the 52-acre master planned community Westshore Marina District. Related previously announced plans for a 396-unit luxury apartment complex on the site at the Tampa end of the Gandy Bridge. ...

    Miami-based Related Group has paid $11.81 million for part of the 52-acre master planned community Westshore Marina at the east end of the Gandy Bridge in Tampa. [Courtesy of BTI Partners}
  8. St. Petersburg eyes zoning changes after explosion of large homes

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Drive through Snell Isle, the Old Northeast or other areas near downtown St. Petersburg, and it's hard to ignore the amount of residential construction.

    There is a lot of it.

    In the past few years, St. Petersburg has seen an explosion in the number of permits for new single-family homes — 191 last year alone. That's nearly seven times as many as in 2009 during the depths of the recession. And the fact that most of those new houses are gargantuan compared to the ones they replace is prompting a response from residents, who are often outspoken in their views, and city officials, who are considering changes to help the behemoths better fit in....

    A house under construction at Monterey Boulevard NE and Almedo Way NE illustrates the aesthetic problem caused by the requirement for higher elevation: a base of uninterrupted wall.
  9. Tampa Bay home prices in 2016 saw biggest gain in six years but will 2017 be as strong?

    Real Estate

    In 2012, during the bleakest year of the foreclosure crisis, a three-bedroom, two-bath house in St. Petersburg's Russell Park sold in a distressed sale for $118,000.

    Just before Halloween last year, the same house went back on the market. More than 65 people showed up at the first open house, and six put in offers, all higher than what the sellers were asking.

    The sale price this time? $222,000 — $22,000 over the asking price....

    List price: $200,000 Sale price: $222,000 This three bedroom, two-bath house in Russell Park, midway between downtown St. Petersburg and the Tyrone area, sold in a short sale in 2012 for $118,000. When it came back up for sale in October, agent Monica Crawford priced it at $200,000 to attract buyers searching in the $175,000-$200,000 range as well as those shopping in the $200,000-$225,000 range. "Maximum exposure leads to maximum selling price and that's exactly what happened in this situation,'' she says. [Photo courtesy of Shannon Halvorsen Photography]
  10. Sirata Beach Resort sold for $108.19 million

    Real Estate

    ST. PETE BEACH-- The Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center sold for $108.19 million, according to a deed recorded this week.

    Texas-based Crescent Real Estate partnered with an Atlanta company to acquire the 382-room hotel in an off-market deal with the original owners, the Nicklaus family. Neither side disclosed the purchase price, nor was it reflected in the taxes on the deed transfer. ...

    [Courtesy of Crescent Real Estate LLC]
  11. Nashville company buys Crescent Westshore in Tampa for $80 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — With Tampa Bay's apartment market still going strong even as lenders start to tighten up, a Nashville-based company has bought one of the area's newest apartment complexes for $80 million.

    Crescent Communities sold its 374-unit Crescent Westshore to Nicol Investment Co., which plans to rename and rebrand the complex later this year. Completed in 2016, the apartments at 2202 N. Lois Ave. are about 50 percent leased. ...

    Artist Mark Aeling last July directs a crane holding a piece of his sculpture outside of the Crescent Westshore multifamily development in the Westshore district. A Nashville-based company has bought the apartment complex for $80 million.
[Times file photo]
  12. Former Steinbrenner home on Davis Islands sells for nearly $6.3 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa's Bay's luxury market is kicking off another strong year with the $6.275 million sale of an 8,000-square-foot bayfront home on Davis Islands.

    The seven-bedroom, seven-bath home sold in late January in an off-market transaction. The deed had not been recorded as of Friday, but the seller was a pair of trusts in the name of Christina S. Lavery, records show.

    Lavery formerly was married to New York Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner, who with his brother Hank inherited the team from their late father, George Steinbrenner. ...

    This home on Davis Islands sold for nearly $6.3 million in late January, making it 2017's  first bay area  sale over $6 million. Last year, eight homes sold for at least $6 million.
[Smith & Associates]
  13. Treasure Island's Gulffront Sands Motel sold for $5.25 million

    Real Estate

    TREASURE ISLAND — The gulffront Sands Motel has been sold for $5.25 million to a company that plans to renovate the vintage 34-room motel.

    Built in 1947 at 11800 Gulf Blvd., the Sands was the first concrete building in Treasure Island.

    "This is one of the jewels of the Treasure Island beach properties, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of the sale of such an iconic motel," broker Patrick Calhoon said. ...

  14. Texas-based company buys St. Petersburg's Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center

    Real Estate

    ST. PETE BEACH — One of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels has been sold to a Texas-based company.

    Crescent Real Estate LLC said it has acquired the 382-room Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center in an off-market deal with the Nicklaus family. The price was not disclosed, and the deed had not been recorded as of this morning.

    "This is a unique opportunity to secure an excellent resort property ideally positioned to grow,'' Jason Anderson, Crescent's CEO, said in a press release. "Located on one of the best beaches in the country, the Sirata Beach Resort attracts guests from across the U.S. with its easy drive-to-acess and proximity to the St. Petersburg and Tampa airports.''...

    One of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels has been sold to a Texas-based company. Crescent Real Estate LLC said it has acquired the 382-room Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center in an off-market deal with the Nicklaus family.  The price was not disclosed, and the deed had not been recorded as of this morning.
  15. Tampa Bay emerges as one of nation's hottest industrial markets

    Real Estate

    Warehouses lack the glamour of luxury homes, but they are helping make the Tampa Bay area one of the nation's hottest emerging industrial markets.

    The bay area vaulted from No. 28 to No. 10 last year in net leasing of distribution and light industrial space, according to a new report by Colliers International. Overall vacancy rates dropped to 6.3 percent despite more than 4.4 million square feet of new construction in 2016....

    Amazon opened the doors to its 1.1-million-square-foot fulfillment center in Ruskin last year. Tampa Bay has been singled out as a top 10 market for industrial real estate. 
[Times file photo]