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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 ranks among nation's leaders in house-flipping profits

    Real Estate

    If TV shows like Flip or Flop have you itching to flip a house, Tampa Bay is a good place to do it.

    In the first three months of 2015, bay area flippers averaged a 57 percent gross profit on their flips, the sixth highest in the nation, according to a new report by the housing data firm RealtyTrac. Slightly over 7 percent of all homes sold in Tampa Bay in the first quarter were flips — defined as a property bought and resold within 12 months. Of the 587 bay area flips between Jan. 1 and March 31, flippers paid an average of $105,842 and resold for an average of $166,401, a gain of $60,559. ...

  2. Tampa's priciest estate hits market at nearly $14 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — For $13.9 million, you can own the largest estate opposite the world's longest unbroken stretch of sidewalk.

    The historic Stovall-Lee House on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa just hit the market at the highest price of any current listing in Hillsborough County and the second highest in the bay area.

    Situated on 2.6 acres overlooking Hillsborough Bay, the six-bedroom, nine-bath home with 8,000 square feet of living space boasts antique chandeliers, the original mahogany and cypress moldings, and some of the original leaded glass windows....

    The Stovall-Lee House on Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard just hit the market for $13.9 million. (Courtesy of Coldwell Banker)
  3. Plenty of room(s) to grow in hotel industry

    Business

    Tampa Bay's hotel industry has seen explosive growth over the past year. At least seven new hotels are planned, under construction or recently opened on Clearwater Beach and in the downtown areas of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Kent Schwarz knows the hospitality business — he started as a bellhop at 15 in his native Phoenix, then went on to work for Hilton. Today he is the Clearwater-based executive vice president of hotel services for Colliers International, the real estate brokerage. ...

    Renaissance Tampa International Plaza
  4. Tampa Bay's classiest 'party house' now on the market for $6 million

    Real Estate

    It's one of Tampa Bay's great party houses but not in the debauched, get-sick-in-the-bushes, Animal House kind of way.

    Over the years, Fazal Fazlin's waterfront St. Petersburg estate has hosted elegant fundraisers for a wide range of worthy causes — Family Resources, the American Cancer Society and All Children's Hospital, to name just a few.

    Thousands of guests have wandered the 5 acres of manicured lawns, enjoyed sunsets over Boca Ciega Bay, supped on lavishly catered fare in a grand hall and formal dining room big enough to seat 500....

    Fazal Fazlin’s estate at 900 Park St. in St. Petersburg is on the market for just under $6 milloin.
  5. Tampa Bay among nation's leaders in all-cash homes sales

    Real Estate

    Cash continues to be king in Tampa Bay.

    In the first three months of 2015, the bay area ranked fourth nationally in all-cash purchases of single-family homes and condos, RealtyTrac reported Friday.

    Slightly over 43 percent of sales were in cash, a strong indication that investors remain active in the market, although their numbers are diminishing as prices rise.

    Meanwhile, the bay area — which includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties — came in fourth nationally in sales of bank-owned homes, with foreclosures making up 13.2 percent of all sales for the quarter....

  6. Luxury condo reservations are brisk in downtown St. Petersburg

    Real Estate

    Reservations for One St. Petersburg, a 41-story condo tower planned for the city's thriving downtown, have "far surpassed expectations,'' the project's sales director said Wednesday. Since marketing began a few months ago, 104 of the 253 luxury units have been reserved, representing total sales of $106 million, according to Dave Traynor of Smith & Associates.

    The response shows the robust demand for luxury residences near the downtown waterfront with its plethora of restaurants, museums and shops. Two other proposed downtown condos — the Salvador and Bliss — have also generated presales and plenty of buzz. ...

    The 41-story One St. Petersburg condo at First Street and First Avenue N will be the tallest building in the city.
  7. Two indicted for improper asbestos removal at St. Petersburg's Urban Style Flats

    Business

    Five years ago, developer Philip J. Farley III bought an aging public housing complex near downtown St. Petersburg and turned it into hip apartments for millennials called Urban Style Flats.

    The transformation came at a high cost, a federal grand jury says.

    According to a newly unsealed indictment, Farley and a supervisor, Aurelijius Baltusis, oversaw a renovation of the complex in which untrained, unprotected workers illegally removed thousands of square feet of dangerous asbestos. Among examples cited in the criminal indictment: ...

    A former public housing complex just east of Tropicana Field was recast as Urban Style Flats. During the renovation, several asbestos-related rules were broken, an indictment states.
  8. Caché stores to close; new plus-size store opens at Tyrone Square

    Business

    Caché Inc., the women's clothing chain known for its snug, slightly tarty prom, leisure and cocktail wear, is closing its remaining Tampa Bay store this week.

    Liquidation sales with prices up to 80 percent off run through Wednesday when the boutique-type store in International Plaza closes for good.

    Caché stores at Tyrone Square mall and the Westfield malls in Countryside, Citrus Park and Brandon went dark earlier this year. New York-based Caché filed for bankruptcy in February, joining a growing list of retailers that include Wet Seal and Coldwater Creek....

    Slug	CACHE Pub Section	BIZ Status	New Description	Jensel, a new store carrying the Lafei Nier line of "fashion denim'' just opened at Tyrone Square Mall in space vacated by Cache, a nationwide chain now in bankruptcy. Cache is closing its International Plaza store this week. Photo by Susan Taylor Martin    Jensel, a new store carrying the Lafei Nier line of "fashion denim'' just opened at Tyrone Square Mall in space vacated by Cache, a nationwide chain now in bankruptcy. Cache is closing its International Plaza store this week. Photo by Susan Taylor Martin
  9. 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....

  10. 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....

    Charles Gallagher, one of the Tampa Bay area’s best-known foreclosure defense lawyers, is frequently seen in television ads in which he pitches his services at the shoreline.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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....

  14. 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.
  15. 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.''...

    Jim Bartholomay, Renaissance Tampa Hotel International Plaza general manager, second from left, leads a staff meeting in the newly decorated lobby area of his hotel. The Renaissance is in the midst of a major renovation.