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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


Blog: Hot Spots

  1. Lawyers' mailings to troubled homeowners get more frequent and desperate as foreclosures fall

    Real Estate

    One South Florida lawyer provides a "complimentary motion'' that homeowners can file in court. A Clearwater company encloses a hand-written check for $3,000. And there's seemingly no end to the "free consultations.''

    It's all part of a bid to grab some of Tampa Bay's shrinking mortgage foreclosure business.

    With the number of new foreclosure filings down dramatically, lawyers, investors and others are deluging distressed homeowners with offers of help....

    Here are various letters — including a fake check — one homeowner received while in foreclosure. Mailings include legal firms’ offers to help with loan modifications or short sale arrangements.

  2. Amazon property in Ruskin sells for $103.6 million, biggest industrial sale in Tampa Bay history

    Real Estate

    RUSKIN — In the largest industrial property sale in Tampa Bay history, the huge Amazon distribution center in Ruskin has been sold for $103.6 million.

    The buyer is a Phoenix-based real estate investment trust.

    The 1.1-million-square-foot center is 100 percent leased to the giant Internet retailer, which will remain as a tenant, but it is large enough to accommodate future tenants....

    Amazon will remain as a tenant in the 1.1-million-square-foot center at 3350 Laurel Ridge Ave. in Ruskin, but the facility is large enough to accommodate future tenants.
  3. Prices for Tampa Bay homes climbed again in May, but are there signs of a slowdown?

    Real Estate

    Prices for Tampa Bay homes continued to increase in May, with three of the four bay area counties showing double-digit gains.

    But for the bay area's two biggest counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough, the increases are not nearly as dramatic as they were early in the year.

    "I think it's kind of stabilized,'' Tampa Realtor Rebecca Schmid said of the bay area real estate market. "I don't see it going down but I don't see it going up at this point.''...

    This year-old, 5,500 square foot home in Tampa's Sunset Park sold for $2.6 million in May, the top price paid that month for any home in Hillsborough County.
  4. Lennar will resurrect Little Harbor waterfront development in booming south Hillsborough

    Real Estate

    RUSKIN — In yet another sign of south Hillsborough County's explosive growth, Lennar has paid $17 million for a Ruskin site where it plans its first luxury waterfront homes in the Tampa Bay area.

    The Miami-based company, one of the nation's biggest home builders, will resurrect the Little Harbor residential community just off U.S. 41 and Shell Point Road about 8 miles southwest of Apollo Beach. ...

    This is an aerial view of Lennar’s Little Harbor luxury housing development in southern Hillsborough County. The previous developer built only seven of the 190 homes planned for the property before the market crashed in 2009. 
  5. Is one of downtown St. Petersburg's prime sites poised for sale and redevelopment?

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Is one of the prime sites near downtown St. Petersburg's bustling Beach Drive poised for sale and redevelopment?

    That's the speculation fueled by a new lawsuit against the owners of the dated Plaza Tower and Courtyard Shops at 111 Second Ave. NE, just a block off Beach and across the street from the Sundial shopping, dining and movie complex.

    Rudolph Andrews, who owns a hair salon in the Courtyard Shops, says in his suit that the Kalyvas Group slipped a provision in his new lease saying it could terminate the agreement with 180 days' notice "in the event that Lessor (Kalyvas) elects to redevelop the premises." Andrews, previously known as Rudolph Perez, refused to accept the change and is demanding Kalyvas renew his lease under the original terms. ...

    The dated Tower Plaza and Courtyard Shops is on a prime piece of real estate in downtown St. Petersburg and has generated interest from developers.
  6. Rent-to-own company allows Tampa Bay home buyers to take a house and neighborhood for a test drive

    Real Estate

    After the economy crashed in 2008, Benny Andrews and his wife closed their Tampa direct-mail business, paid off all their bills and lived by cash only.

    It was a smart way to stay out of debt. But it wasn't so good when they began to think about buying a house.

    "We didn't have credit cards, we didn't have car payments, we didn't use credit for six or seven years so basically our credit score was too low to get a (mortgage) loan,'' Andrews said. ...

    Real estate agent Louie Talacay, left, helped Benny and Andrea Andrews and their children find a home in Land O’Lakes through the rent-to-own program. 
  7. Tampa Bay foreclosures plunging to lowest levels since 2006

    Real Estate

    Foreclosure defense ads have disappeared, vacant homes are again occupied and bank-owned properties are bringing big bucks.

    Yes, the darkest days of Tampa Bay's foreclosure crisis are well past.

    Though still above the national average, the percentage of bay area homes in some stage of foreclosure continues to plunge. And both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are on track to record the lowest number of new foreclosure filings since 2006. ...

    Foreclosures in the Tampa Bay area haven't been this low since 2006. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
  8. Former Rays owner Vince Naimoli's Avila home finally sells for $3.9M, a fraction of original asking price

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — More than six years after it first hit the market, the Avila estate of former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli has finally sold — at less than a third of the original asking price.

    Multiple Listing Service records show that the lakefront home closed last week for $3.9 million, a 72 percent drop from its peak price of $14 million. The deed had not been recorded as of Thursday afternoon, but one of the agents involved in the sale said the buyers already live in Avila but wanted a bigger home....

    The Avila estate of former Tampa Bay Rays owner Vince Naimoli has sold for $3.9 million, less than a third of its original asking price six years ago. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway.
  9. Good news: The number of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater continues to plunge

    Real Estate

    In an encouraging sign for the general economy, the number of Tampa Bay borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth continues to plunge.

    Although still double the national average, just 16 percent of bay area homeowners with mortgages were underwater in the first three months of this year compared with 23 percent in 2015's first quarter, CoreLogic says.

    In raw numbers, 95,979 home­owners in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties had negative equity, compared with nearly 140,000 in last year's first quarter....

    More mortgage holders in the Tampa Bay area may be tempted to put their homes on the market as the number underwater continues to plunge. [iStockphoto] 
  10. Temple Terrace apartment complex sold for $70 million, will get major makeover

    Real Estate

    TEMPLE TERRACE — Goodbye River Chase Apartments, hello the Park at Valenza.

    A Tampa-based company has bought the 776-unit River Chase complex for $70 million and plans to rename it as part of a substantial makeover.

    With 97 percent occupancy, the apartments "represent an outstanding value-ad opportunity in one of greater Tampa's fastest-growing areas," said Randy Ferreira of Blue Rock Premier Properties. ...

    The River Chase Apartments in Temple Terrace have been sold for $70 million and will be renamed The Park at Valenza. Photo courtesy Blue Rock Premier Properties.
  11. St. Petersburg's housing boom extending into once-marginal neighborhoods

    Real Estate


    Over the decades, Tom O'Brien saw a dramatic metamorphosis of his native Boston.

    "It was nothing years ago when I was growing up,'' he says with a still distinct accent. "We used to fish at the pier and no one was down there. Now there's a Marriott at $600 a night.''

    Sixteen years ago, O'Brien "chased a woman'' to another city still in the early stages of a much-needed makeover. That relationship ended but love blossomed for his new home of St. Petersburg. ...

    RE/MAX real estate agents Leisa and Matt Erickson stand in an empty lot next to Booker Creek in Roser Park. They are the Pinellas representatives for Domain Homes, a Tampa-based company building homes in the area.
  12. What are Tampa Bay's most sought-after neighborhoods? The answer may surprise you

    Real Estate

    Forget Davis Islands, South Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg — Tampa Bay's hottest ZIP codes are two you might not expect.

    While wealthier parts of the bay area have seen greater price appreciation since 2004, the areas most sought after by home buyers today are Largo/Seminole (ZIP 33778) and Tampa's Carrollwood-Northdale (ZIP 33624), says.

    The main reason for those ZIPs' popularity is simple — both have stable neighborhoods with the kind of roomy yet moderately priced homes that are in increasingly tight supply these days. ...

    Home inspector Jim Belt peers inside a breaker box of a home in the Carrollwood area, where homes for sale are in tight supply.
  13. Nearly 10 years after the housing crash, here's how condo sales are doing in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    On St. Petersburg's Beach Drive, one penthouse sells for a record $6.9 million. A nearby penthouse, not even finished, goes under contract for $2.95 million.

    The city's downtown condo market may be in a league of its own, as many Realtors agree, but condo sales throughout the Tampa Bay area are bouncing back after their disastrous crash a decade ago.

    In Pinellas and Pasco counties, more condos sold in April than in any month since 2012, as far back as the Florida Realtors organization tracks sales. Hillsborough had its second-best month in April, topped only by a bumper showing last June. ...

    This 4,500-square-foot penthouse in the Grandview condo tower on Tampa’s Harbour Island sold in May for $1.975 million, Hillsborough’s priciest condo sale in the past six months.
  14. Penthouse at downtown St. Petersburg's Bliss condo tower sells for $2.95 million

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A recent hard-hat tour of downtown's 18-story Bliss condo tower has quickly paid off — the penthouse is now under contract for $2.95 million.

    With the pending deal, all 29 units in Bliss have found buyers even though the building remains under construction at 176 4th Ave. NE just off Beach Drive.

    "This Bliss sale is just one of many this year that show how demand is simply outpacing inventory'' in downtown St. Petersburg's luxury condo market, said David Traynor, a vice president at Smith & Associates. "We have penthouses that have sold after being on the market for only a few days. These quick moving sales are becoming the norm for luxury condominiums in this area with very little new construction anticipated in the year ahead."...

    The view from an upper floor of the Bliss condo tower, under construction at 4th Ave NE right off Beach Drive. LARA CERRI   |   Times
  15. Storm surge imperils 455,000 Tampa Bay homes, report says


    Nearly 455,000 Tampa Bay homes could be damaged by hurricane storm surges, the most in any major metro area except Miami and New York City. And rebuilding all those homes could cost $80.6 billion.

    That's according to a report released Wednesday by CoreLogic, a global property information firm, as the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially kicks off with two named storms already on the record books....