Make us your home page

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

  1. Tampa's newest public company LM Funding buys 'problems' but has some of its own


    TAMPA — The confetti was flying Oct. 23 at NASDAQ headquarters in Manhattan as LM Funding America became Tampa Bay's newest publicly traded company.

    By the end of the day, the firm's initial public offering had raised $10 million — peanuts by Wall Street standards but "absolutely exhilarating'' to chairman and CEO Bruce Rodgers.

    LM Funding — whose pitch is "We buy problems'' — pays homeowners associations for the right to collect delinquent fees. The associations use the funds for maintenance and repairs while the company makes its money through what it calls "aggressive'' debt collection. ...

    Corporate officers of LM Funding America, a Tampa company, on Oct. 23 when the company went public on NASDA!Q in New York. Courtesy NASDAQ.

  2. Crane accident latest irritant for residents around St. Petersburg's Bliss condo construction

    Real Estate


    A crane accident that damaged a brand-new parking garage is just one of many problems and irritants that construction of the 17-story Bliss condo tower is causing.

    Nearby residents complain that construction crews have blocked the sidewalk, parked illegally, worked later than allowed and flooded their apartments with glaringly bright light all night.

    "It's difficult living next door to major construction like that; there's no question about it," Marshall Seiden, president of the Rowland Place homeowners association, said Wednesday. ...

    A crane used for the Bliss condo put a hole in Rowland Place’s garage, which is covered on the outside with plywood.
  3. Crane working on St. Pete's Bliss condo hits nearby building, reviving size concerns

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A large crane being used in the construction of the 17-story Bliss condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg brushed the side of a nearby building, knocking in a hole that is now covered with plywood.

    The incident, which occurred within the last two weeks, did not cause any injuries or major damage. But it revived concerns about Bliss, which critics have complained is too big for its narrow site. ...

     A construction crane used to build the Bliss condominium project in downtown St. Petersburg punched a hole in the side of the Rowland Place condominium complex, left, which was covered with a wood plank. SCOTT KEELER | TIMES
  4. Home sales in Tampa Bay and Florida slow down as inventory shrinks

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay fared better than Florida as a whole in October homes sales but the gains weren't as impressive as in some previous months.

    Year-over-year sales of single-family homes rose 8.7 percent in Hillsborough and 6 percent in Pinellas, but inched up less than 3 percent in Pasco. Hernando actually saw a drop with 6 percent fewer sales this October compared with last.

    One explanation for the less-than-spectacular results: fewer homes to choose from. All four counties had far fewer active listings last month than they did in October 2014....

  5. Mega-sized Grace Family Church buys old Sweetbay on Gandy in Tampa amid re-development

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — In a deal that reflects the resurgence of a once down-and-out South Tampa area, a mega-church has bought a closed Sweetbay supermarket on West Gandy Boulevard for $6 million.

    Grace Family Church, which draws thousands of worshippers to its existing campuses in Lutz, Temple Terrace, Ybor City and on West Waters Avenue, paid cash for the cavernous space in a derelict shopping center....

    South Tampa mega-church Grace Family Church has bought a closed Sweetbay supermarket on West Gandy Boulevard for $6 million. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
  6. UF law dean faces a challenging environment


    Laura Rosenbury didn't plan to be a lawyer. After graduating from Harvard-Radcliffe College, she spent three months in London as a copy editor for a scientific publishing firm, then went to work in the national office of Planned Parenthood in New York City.

    It was there that the Indiana-born, New York-raised Rosenbury realized that "a lot of people with law degrees were doing very interesting work that did not involve the traditional, courtroom-style lawyering.'' She went on to Harvard Law School, where she was primary editor of the Harvard Law Review, clerked for two federal judges, defended white-collar criminal cases and taught at several law schools including Washington University in St. Louis. ...

    Laura Rosenbury, UF’s new law school dean, is the first woman to take the position permanently.
  7. For Paul Stenstrom, bankruptcy pays off — again and again and again


    Tampa Bay's most prolific bankruptcy filer is at it again.

    On Nov. 10, just weeks after a two-year ban expired, Paul Stenstrom of Tarpon Springs filed another bankruptcy petition — his 15th since 2002.

    Stenstrom — whose prior filings blocked foreclosure on his home for 12 years — is now trying to stop eviction from a townhouse he rents.

    The self-described "consultant'' has had so many case numbers assigned to him over the years that it makes for "a big, thick, dense block of text'' on the court docket, commented Tampa bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen. "I've never seen this many.''...

    Paul Stenstrom has filed 15 bankruptcy petitions since 2002. This time he is trying to stop eviction from this townhouse he rents.
  8. Florida leads country in homeowners eligible for HARP refinancing


    Florida leads the nation in the number of homeowners eligible to refinance under a popular federal program, and a lot of them are here in the Tampa Bay area.

    According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, nearly 11,000 bay area homeowners could still take advantage of the Home Affordable Refinance Program, commonly called HARP, before it expires at the end of next year.

    Almost half of those are in Hillsborough County, which ranks ninth among all U.S. counties in the number of eligible homeowners. ...

  9. Strong sales prompt construction of 41-story condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg to start early

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Construction of ONE St. Petersburg, a 41-story condo tower in the heart of downtown, will start sooner than expected because of strong sales.

    The Kolter Group said Monday that infrastructure and foundation work already have begun on the site at 100 1st Avenue N., which will become St. Petersburg's tallest building and one of the tallest on Florida's west coast.

    A formal groundbreaking on the 253-unit tower and adjacent Hyatt hotel is scheduled for early next year....

    An artist’s rendering shows One St. Petersburg, the 41-story condo tower with an adjacent Hyatt hotel planned for downtown St. Petersburg.
  10. Downtown Tampa's Aloft hotel sold for $30 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Aloft, one of Tampa Bay's newest hotels, has been sold to a North Carolina hospitality company for $30 million.

    "Tampa is a great market and a lot of investors are interested so we just thought this was a good time to sell,'' Nik Sachdev, managing director of Convergent Capital Partners, said Friday.

    Convergent and another company have owned the property, which overlooks the Hillsborough River at 100 W Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa, since 2013. They purchased what was then a vacant building for $3.325 million and converted it into a 132-room hotel with a popular bar and hip urban vibe. ...

    Pharos CB of North Carolina bought the Aloft hotel at 100 W Kennedy Blvd. on the Hillsborough River that Convergent Capital has owned since 2013.
  11. Tampa Bay nonprofits to get first crack at foreclosed homes owned by Freddie and Fannie

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay metro area has been selected as one of only 20 nationwide where nonprofit organizations will get first crack at foreclosed homes owned by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

    Through the New Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative, the organizations will be able to buy homes for $175,000 or less before investors and other members of the public can bid.

    "We looked at areas of the country that have a high volume of low-value homes owned by Fannie and Freddie," said Stefanie Johnson of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. "In Tampa (Bay) that was 700-plus." The goal is to stabilize the housing market in distressed areas by working with community organizations that "can help develop the best outcome for each property, such as owner-occupied or rental," Johnson said. ...

  12. When it comes to pricey homes, Sarasota-Bradenton trumps Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    As metro areas go, Tampa Bay has a lot in common with the neighboring Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port region.

    Both have beautiful beaches, fine restaurants, high-end retailers and impressive offerings of art and culture. Both also have multitudes of gorgeous homes — but there, the similarities end.

    Living in luxury costs a lot more south of the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

    Since January, 13 homes in the Sarasota-Bradenton area have sold for more than $5 million. In the much larger Tampa Bay area — none. Of homes priced from $2 million to $5 million, 131 have sold in Sarasota-Bradenton this year compared with 67 in Tampa Bay. ...

    Ohana, a 3-acre estate on Longboat Key, is listed for $22 million, making it the most expensive gulffront property north of Naples.
  13. South Tampa neighbors oppose proposed lot split for house once owned by Santo Trafficante

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The controversy over big new homes crowding out smaller older ones is moving to a South Tampa house linked to the city's most famous mobster, Santo Trafficante Jr., who died in 1987.

    Devonshire Custom Homes has applied for a zoning determination that could allow the property at 2505 W Bristol Ave. to be split into two lots. The property is owned by Trafficante's daughters, Mary Jo Paniello and Sarah Valdez....

    Santo Trafficante Jr., the late reputed mob boss, once owned the South Tampa house that is for sale. [Times files (1986)] 
  14. Hardest Hit Fund helping people buy houses while existing homeowners struggle

    Real Estate

    As a scathing report recently found, thousands of Floridians struggling with their mortgages have been denied help or are still awaiting assistance from the federal Hardest Hit Fund.

    Yet Florida housing officials in July quietly launched a program using $50 million in Hardest Hit money to help make down payments for people who have never had a house but want to buy one.

    Moreover, the program so far is open only to residents of Hillsborough and four other counties. People in Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and the rest of the state are out of luck. ...

  15. Distressed loans big business for St. Petersburg firm

    Real Estate

    Drive along U.S. 19 and you'll see hundreds of gas stations, restaurants and other small and mid-sized businesses — some of them financed with bank loans the borrowers are struggling to repay. That's where Directed Capital Resources comes in.

    Founded in 2001 by Chris Moench, now its CEO, the St. Petersburg company with an office in San Diego uses money raised from investors to buy distressed commercial loans. It helps the borrowers resolve their financial problems so the businesses can produce enough cash flow to make the loan payments and repay the investors with interest. ...

    Chris Moench, CEO of St. Petersburg-based Directed Capital Resources, has made his mark by buying up distressed loans.