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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 sales soar in March; highest level since 2005

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home sales hit a torrid pace in March, rocketing in some areas to the highest levels in years.

    In Hillsborough County, year-over-year sales of single family homes, condos and townhomes shot up 25 percent.

    In Pinellas, March was the second busiest month in 10 years, exceeded only by sales during March 2005, right before the housing boom hit its peak.

    And in the greater Tampa Bay metro area, which includes Pasco and Hernando counties, more than 5,500 homes, townhomes and condos traded hands in March, the most in any part of Florida except for Miami-Dade....

  2. Lawyer Charles Gallagher III, known for TV ads, now under fire

    Real Estate

    You've probably seen the TV ads — lawyer Charles Gallagher III perched on jagged rocks, warning that "navigating your way around court can be very rocky." Or standing on the beach by a huge sand castle, vowing to "defend your home and fight the bank" against foreclosure.

    Three years ago, Leslie and Daniel Hughes turned to Gallagher for help in modifying the mortgages on their Tierra Verde home and a small motel they own in St. Pete Beach. Although neither property was in foreclosure, they say Gallagher told them to stop making payments because the banks would be more willing then to negotiate....

    Daniel and Leslie Hughes, owners of the Sundial Inn in St. Pete Beach, hired lawyer Charles Gallagher III in 2012 to help them fight off possible foreclosure at the hotel and at their home.
  3. Retired baseball player Gary Sheffield sued by home contractor

    Real Estate

    Andrea and Donald Gel­singer run a construction business out of their 1,800-square-foot St. Petersburg home valued at $163,000.

    Former major-league baseball star Gary Sheffield owns a 9,200-square-foot Tampa home valued at nearly $2 million.

    Last year, Sheffield and his wife hired the Gelsingers' company to substantially remodel the house and build a major addition. But the Gelsingers claim in a new lawsuit that the Sheffields have refused to pay more than $155,000 they owe for completed work. ...

    Donald Gelsinger’s company was hired to remodel this home, one of two the Sheffields own on Harbour Island.
  4. Here are the most expensive streets to live on in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Want to live on the most expensive street in Tampa Bay?

    Forget it — there's nothing currently for sale on Clearwater Beach's Mandalay Point, where the median home value is $4,607,200.

    But if you're slightly less picky, there are nice mansions to be had on the bay area's third-, fourth- and fifth-most-expensive streets, some for as little as $1.64 million.

    In fact, Tampa Bay's priciest homes are veritable bargains compared with other places, according to Zillow's "Most Expensive Streets in America" list....

    This home on Nelsons Walk in Naples in on the market for $18.9?million after the price was cut $1?million last month. Nelsons Walk’s median price is nearly $10.5?million, third highest in Florida.
  5. Tampa Bay home foreclosures still near the top in the U.S.

    Real Estate

    The number of Tampa Bay homes lost to foreclosure dropped slightly in the 12 months ending in February though the bay area still had one of the nation's highest percentages of homes in danger of foreclosure.

    According to the property information source CoreLogic, lenders took back 17,574 homes in the four-county Tampa Bay area in the 12 months ending in February. That was 251 fewer than a year earlier....

  6. Robbins Property Associates makes Top Workplaces for third year in a row

    News

    TAMPA – After Robbins Property Associates bought it in 2013, Clearwater's MacArthur Park Apartments metamorphosed from a run-down complex into one boasting "million dollar upgrades'' including an Internet cafe, Bark Park and state-of-the-art fitness center. It also got a new name: Madison Place, courtesy of a Robbins employee who won $300 in a company-sponsored naming contest.

    Rewarding employees for their help in rebranding tired apartment communities is just one of the many reasons Robbins made the Tampa Bay Times list of Top Workplaces for the third year in a row. The Tampa-based company, which has complexes in Florida, Georgia Texas and Maryland, knows that its nearly $60 million in revenues last year stemmed from the hard work of its property managers, leasing agents, grounds keepers and maintenance crews. ...

    Property manager Marionette Sexton and maintenance supervisor Juan Carlos Carvajal in Sexton’s office at Cooper’s Pond.
  7. After exciting start, Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza has settled in

    Business

    TAMPA

    Forget about the proverbial cloud — even a Category 4 hurricane can have a silver lining. ¶ The Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza opened in August 2004, three days before Hurricane Charley threatened to obliterate much of Pinellas County. As Charley loomed — closely followed by Ivan and Jeanne — waves of evacuees flooded across Tampa Bay and into a brand new hotel that had barely half of its staff in place. ¶ "You can't think up a better scenario to become immersed in the community,'' says general manager Jim Bartholomay. "By the third time, guests were grabbing their own bell carts.''...

    Stylist supervisor Stephanie Adderley, left, inspects a  room tended by stylist Olga Anoceto. They’re called stylists at the Renaissance, not housekeepers.
  8. Employees feel valued at law firm GrayRobinson

    Working Life

    TAMPA

    When a lawyer in the GrayRobinson law firm began using a stand-up desk, it caught the notice of other staffers worried that too much sitting was hurting their health. ¶ So office administrator Gayle Wetherell scouted around and found an adjustable desk whose $400 cost the firm will split with any employee who wants one. And the desk is theirs to keep if they leave. ¶ Not that GrayRobinson has much turnover. ¶ "I like all the people, nobody's breathing down my neck, I have a great boss and the benefits are great" is how legal assistant (and stand-up desk user) Eileen Hunt summarizes why GrayRobinson is one of the 2015 Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces. ...

    David L. Smith, former Tampa city attorney, is managing shareholder for GrayRobinson.
  9. Tampa Bay's priciest mansions include extravagant amenities whose selling power is debatable

    Real Estate

    If you're cleaning your closet and wondering how to get even half of that junk back in there, here's a solution: a master closet so big it's two stories tall. If the NCAA hoops championship had you yearning to slam dunk a few, what better place to practice than on your very own basketball court?

    And if you're tired of loading everybody into the car to get some ice cream, why not hit the parlor in your own private village?...

    This Tarpon Springs home, on the market for $14.3 million, has a private village that includes an ice cream parlor and a movie house.
  10. Dispute brews at Pinellas' 'Pervert Park' as documentary gains praise (w/video)

    Real Estate

    At this year's Sundance Film Festival, a top prize went to Pervert Park, a foreign-made documentary about registered sex offenders living in a Pinellas County mobile home park.

    Critics lauded the film as a nuanced, if disquieting look at child molesters and other offenders, many of whom have been helped to restart their lives by an organization called Florida Justice Transitions.

    But now Transitions' president Jim Broderick and the gospel musician who owns the park are locked in a dispute that, Broderick says, threatens programs that keep sex offenders from repeating their crimes. ...

    The Palace Mobile Home Park,  2500 54th Ave N, St Petersburg, Monday, 4/7/15. The park, on the SE corner of  54th Ave N and Haines Rd., is home to 134 sex offenders.  The RaceTrac gas station on 54th Ave N is in background of photo on right.
  11. Tampa investor profits when people don't pay their property taxes

    Real Estate

    Seven years ago, Brian Davison was down and out, his lending company a victim of the housing bust.

    "I had to reinvent myself,'' he says.

    Today, the 43-year-old Davison is CEO of Equialt, a group of investment funds that own more than 170 houses, townhomes and condos throughout Tampa Bay. Collectively worth tens of millions of dollars, most of them were snapped up for far less than their market value....

    Brian Davison, at one of his properties at 2437 Navaraz Ave. in Safety Harbor on Wednesday, has amassed dozens of homes and condos across Tampa Bay through tax deed sales.
  12. St. Petersburg City Council okays Bliss condo tower — again

    Real Estate

    For the third time in six months, the St. Petersburg City Council has given the go-ahead to the 18-story Bliss condo tower, despite a warning that a judge could "blow up'' the project for allegedly failing to comply with the city's land-use plan.

    Council members on Thursday unanimously denied an appeal by Michael Levy, a condo owner in nearby Parkshore Plaza, who asserts that Bliss is too big for its proposed site on Fourth Avenue NE, just off Beach Drive....

    Plans for Bliss, an 18-story luxury condo tower proposed for downtown St. Petersburg, were approved the the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday .
  13. Hurdles continue for St. Petersburg's Bliss luxury condo project

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bliss, the 18-story luxury condo tower planned for downtown St. Petersburg, faces at least two more hurdles in its already bumpy road to fruition.

    On Thursday, City Council members will hear an appeal by a condo owner in the nearby Parkshore Plaza who alleges that Bliss still violates the city's comprehensive land-use plan despite recent modifications to the project. ...

    Bliss, an 18-story luxury condo tower proposed for downtown St. Petersburg, has hit some bumps in the road.
  14. JPMorgan Chase to cut 65 jobs in Tampa

    Banking

    TAMPA — JPMorgan Chase is getting out of the student loan business, a move that will throw 65 employees in Tampa out of work on May 25.

    In a letter to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Chase said it will help those affected find other jobs within the company and may provide relocation assistance for certain positions.

    Outplacement assistance and other severance-related benefits also will be offered to eligible employees, the letter said. ...

  15. Developers moving in on Florida mobile home parks (w/video)

    Real Estate

    ZEPHYRHILLS

    Not so long ago, Rainbow Court mobile home park was a peaceful, pleasant community of senior citizens.

    Today it is a Mad Max, dystopian landscape of broken and abandoned trailers.

    Windows are shattered, some hammered over with plywood. Doors open to rooms stripped of everything that could be carted away. All is eerily quiet but for the occasional shouts of one man drunkenly accusing another of stealing what little is left....

     Old and abandoned mobile homes, many stripped by scavengers, sit in Rainbow Court in Zephyrhills. The park was recently sold and most of the residents have moved out.