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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. Buildings in Tampa office park sell for $111 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The real estate arm of the giant Prudential Insurance Co. has purchased five buildings in east Tampa's Highland Oaks office park for $111 million.

    It is Tampa Bay's third major commercial real estate transaction in the past few weeks.

    "There's a lot of investor enthusiasm" in the area, said Dale Peterson of CBRE, which represented the seller in the Highland Oaks transaction. "What we're seeing is surging population growth, strong job growth, a very healthy labor market and rapidly improving infrastructure in roads. We've got a bunch of new residential units being developed that are attracting millennials."...

    In what is Tampa Bay’s third big commercial real estate deal recently, Prudential Insurance Co.’s real estate arm has bought five buildings in east Tampa’s Highland Oaks office park.
  2. Bliss condo developer sued by former general contractor

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The former general contractor for Bliss, an 18-story condo tower rising in downtown St. Petersburg, claims it was replaced with another contractor without cause or notice.

    In a new lawsuit, Moss & Associates also alleges that developer Taub Entities refused to pay the full price tag of changes that "materially affected" the cost and scope of the project.

    Brian Taub, who runs Taub Entities with his wife, Debbie, declined to comment Tuesday, saying he had not yet spoken with his attorney....

    Bliss, a luxury condo tower in St. Petersburg, will open in late 2016, its developer says.
  3. Florida Bar under fire for hiring public relations firm for nearly $100,000

    Business

    The Florida Bar has touched off a new brouhaha among the state's lawyers, this time by hiring a Miami public relations firm for $96,000 a year to advance "positive campaign messages."

    Critics fear that the main message the firm will try to advance is a controversial proposal to let out-of-state lawyers practice in Florida without taking the Florida Bar exam.

    "I'm flabbergasted," Miami lawyer Robert Allen said Monday upon learning that the Bar had hired Schwartz Media Strategies. "It seems to me that they hired a firm to push an agenda that neither the (Bar's) board of governors nor the vast majority of members of the Florida Bar supports. It's disturbing."...

    Florida Bar president Ram?n Abadin 
says he didn’t take a stance on reciprocity but wanted to open talks.
  4. Owners in Tampa Bay condo complex are losing their homes

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Holly Hail's first impression of Bay Isle Key was "gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous" — so stunning in fact that she paid $182,900 for a condo there nine years ago.

    That was the peak of the boom, when Tampa Bay developers were busily converting apartments to condos to take advantage of soaring prices.

    But with rents shooting up, condos are again becoming apartments, including the 370 units of Bay Isle Key in north St. Petersburg near the Howard Frankland Bridge. And despite a new state law that better protects owners, thousands are being forced to move out or become renters themselves....

    In converting St. Petersburg’s Bay Isle Key to apartments, condo owners are forced to sell.
  5. Rising prices pushing more people to sell their own homes

    Real Estate

    With its stunning view of St. Joseph Sound, the Key West-style home in north Pinellas County would have been a dream listing for any real estate agent.

    Owner Vickie McCloy, though, decided to sell the house herself.

    "Commissions are a lot of money and I needed to get the biggest bang for the buck,'' McCloy said. So she spent just a few hundred dollars to have photos and a description posted on the Multiple Listing Service and online real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia. ...

    More Tampa Bay homeowners looking to sell their homes are doing so themselves with the help of websites like Zillow and Trulia. One of those is Chuck Brooke, who stands in his front yard at 5721 Denver St. in northeast St. Petersburg. 
  6. Signature Place developer sued over sale of Tampa apartment complexes

    Real Estate

    The developer of St. Petersburg's beleaguered Signature Place condo tower faces more legal action — this time over two Tampa apartment complexes.

    A California firm has sued two of Joel Cantor's companies, alleging they quashed contracts to sell the complexes, then refused to return $1 million in deposits.

    San Diego-based Pacifica said that it "is ready, willing and able" to proceed with the sale but that Cantor is trying to force it to pay more. Cantor said Tuesday that the lawsuit is part of Pacifica's "nonstop haggle" since January to lower the purchase price and buy time to arrange financing....

    Joel Cantor says he’ll return $1 million if a prospective buyer drops its suit.
  7. What a millennial who sells homes to millennials thinks of Tampa Bay's housing market

    Real Estate

    While attending the University of South Florida, Ashley Christie worked at a title company and grew interested in real estate. She got her license, became active in the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors and in 2014 was named the organization's Rookie of the Year. The city of Tampa also selected her to be the exclusive listing agent for 11 affordable new homes built as part of a project to revitalize the Sulphur Springs area, once a popular resort but plagued by a high crime rate in recent years. ...

    Realtor Ashley Christie, shown here in Sulphur Springs earlier this month, was named the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors 2014 Rookie of the Year and was the city of Tampa’s exclusive listing agent for its Suphur Springs revitalization project.
  8. Home sales in Tampa Bay have sizzled over the summer

    Real Estate

    The slow summer selling season has been anything but as Tampa Bay home sales shot up 30.2 percent in July.

    Year-over-year sales of single-family homes showed the biggest gain in Hernando County, up 40.5 percent, followed by Pasco (34 percent), Pinellas (27 percent) and Hillsborough (24.9 percent.)

    All four counties did even better than Florida as whole, which posted nearly a 22 percent increase. ...

    This house in Tampa's Culbreath Isle sold for $3.30 million in July. Photo courtesy Smith & Associates Real Estate

  9. Signature Place developer: Don't blame me for $8.7 million repair bill

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Cantor, developer of St. Petersburg's Signature Place condo tower, denies any blame for the building's construction problems and says the $8.7 million repair bill should be paid by the architect, builder, insurers and the city of St. Petersburg.

    In a letter Thursday to Signature Place owners, Cantor also said he recalls dropping off a nearly $1 million check to the city's building department to ensure the 36-story tower "was built to specifications."...

    Signature Place resident Birte Patenaude protests her $27,537 repair bill outside the St. Petersburg condo tower Thursday.
  10. Condo owners at St. Petersburg's Signature Place to cough up $8.7M for repairs

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Condo owners in Signature Place, Tampa Bay's tallest and newest condo tower, are being hit with $8.7 million in special assessments to correct "urgent construction defects" that endanger residents and pedestrians.

    Repairs to the 6-year-old building in downtown St. Petersburg originally were estimated to be less than $700,000 but mushroomed after experts discovered "missing or improperly installed" rebar, which helps strengthen exterior walls....

    Condo owners at downtown St. Petersburg’s Signature Place are on the hook for $8.7 million in repairs that are expected to take until December 2016 to complete. The assessed problems include improperly applied stucco and missing rebar.
  11. Proposed 75-story towers would vault Tampa into top tier of skyscraper cities

    Real Estate

    If nothing else, Port Tampa Bay's vision for the Channel District is notable for its literally lofty ambition.

    A rendering of the $1.5 billion project released last week shows two 75-story towers soaring above the waterfront area that the port hopes to redevelop over 15 years.

    Towers that tall would vault Tampa into the ranks of such sky-scraping cities as Dubai, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. ...

    An aerial rendering, looking west toward downtown, of the proposed Port Tampa Bay project. It includes two 75-story towers, which would be among the tallest buildings in the nation.
  12. Economist says millennials will determine future of housing market

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The chief economist of Fannie Mae, the national mortgage giant, came to town this week with a mixed bag of news about the housing market.

    Among the positives: Even if the Federal Reserve raises interest rates in September, rates on mortgage loans are likely to remain low for several more months, economist Douglas Duncan said. Home sales are expected to stay strong.

    But Duncan had words of caution, too. ...

    The housing outlook is brighter here, economist Douglas Duncan said.
  13. Renters in Tampa Bay pay much higher percentage of incomes for housing than homeowners

    Real Estate

    Rents in the Tampa Bay area are eating up a bigger chunk of personal income, making it harder for people to save for a down payment — at time when homes otherwise are affordable by historical standards.

    A new study by Zillow found that bay area renters paid an average of 32.4 percent of their monthly income on rent in the three months ended in June. That was up from 26.8 percent in the years 1985-2000....

  14. Jill Kelley and her husband file suit against Tampa law firm

    Business

    Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and her husband have filed a legal malpractice suit against a Tampa firm they say botched a foreclosure case involving an office building they owned.

    The suit, filed last week in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, draws attention once again to Jill Kelley, whose complaints about harassing emails led to the 2012 scandal that forced Gen. David Petraeus to resign as CIA director. ...

    Jill Kelley, who gained notoriety for her role in the scandal surrounding then-CIA director David Petraeus, has filed suit against a Tampa law firm. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) FLCO111
  15. Five Pinellas industrial parks sell for $103 million

    Real Estate

    Five Pinellas County office parks with tenants including Jabil, FedEx, Digital Lightwave and Lockheed Martin have been sold for $103 million in one of Tampa Bay's largest recent industrial transactions.

    Evergreen Industrial Properties bought Gateway Business Center, Gateway Business Park, Metropointe Commerce Park, Westbay Corporate Center and Joe's Creek Industrial Park in a deal that includes 34 buildings with 1.66 million square feet of industrial space. ...