Susan Taylor Martin, Times Staff Writer

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. Blackstone real estate giant buys Westin Harbour Island, Jackson's Bistro

    News

    TAMPA — The Westin Harbour Island hotel and its popular restaurant, Jackson's Bistro, are being sold for $46.5 million to Blackstone, one of the world's largest real estate investment firms.

    Owner Maurice Wilder said Friday that the sale, due to close Sept. 3, was prompted, in part, by his disgust with an ever-increasing number of federal regulations.

    "It causes a lot more work, and you've got to have other people to take care of that," said Wilder, whose Clearwater-based Wilder Corp. also recently sold 28,000 acres of agricultural land in Texas....

    People mix and mingle on the patio at Jackson's Bistro in Tampa. [Times 2013]
  2. St. Pete 'Glasshouse' three-story penthouse is all about the view

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — For the new owner of this glass house, there's no need to worry about people throwing stones: It's 34 stories up.

    A stunning trilevel penthouse atop the downtown Signature Place, the Glasshouse condo that has prompted so many upward gazes has just hit the market for $3.2 million. That will buy you black-veined marble floors, custom finishes and expansive views through the floor-to-ceiling windows that give the 4,177-square-foot condo its name. ...

    The Glasshouse, a stunning tri-level penthouse in downtown St. Petersburg's Signature Place, just hit the market for $3.2 million. That will get you black-veined marble floors, custom finishings and spectacular views through the floor-to-ceiling windows that give the 4,177-square-foot condo its name. [Smith & Associates Real Estate]
  3. Despite owing $90,000 in back taxes, developer was appointed to county board

    Local Government

    Based on a glowing recommendation, Pinellas County commissioners in April unanimously appointed developer Roger Broderick to the board of a county agency that promotes affordable housing.

    Broderick's experience will be "immensely beneficial'' to the Pinellas Housing Finance Authority, its executive director and chairman wrote in a memo to commissioners.

    What the memo didn't say: Broderick owes nearly $90,000 in delinquent county property taxes. And he has more than two dozen properties in foreclosure, including land once slated for a county affordable housing project....

    Roger Broderick owns nearly 100 properties in Pinellas.
  4. Realtors check out peers' properties, even pink and purple ones, on tours

    Real Estate

    REDINGTON SHORES

    It's an ordinary Thursday in this Pinellas County beach community — except for the "Open House'' signs pointing crazily in all directions.

    "This way, I think," real estate agent Julia Brazier says, steering her Lexus toward 176th Terrace and the first stop on her list, a three-bedroom, two-bath waterfront bungalow.

    "It's purple!" Brazier exclaims.

    Mermaids flank the baby pink front door, which opens into a fuchsia living room, which overlooks a large deck with bubble gum-pink railings....

    From left in foreground, real estate agent Roy Pate of the Vorac Group, Carla Bolling of Florida Mortgage Advantage, and Laura Canali and Amanda Vilar, both of the Vorac Group, evaluate a Redington Shores home during a tour. In background, John and Jan Strakele of Dallas take advantage of the open house to look around. They are remodeling a vacation home nearby.
  5. Should Realtor's bankruptcy derail treasurer eligibility?

    News

    With a bankruptcy and pending foreclosure, Christine Hansen would find it nearly impossible to buy a house or get a mortgage.

    Yet Hansen, 49, is in line to become treasurer and eventual president of Florida Realtors, the powerful organization whose mission is to "advance Florida's real estate industry.''

    Supporters say Hansen's financial problems should not preclude her from serving next year as volunteer treasurer of the 127,000 member organization....

    Christine Hansen is in line to become treasurer and eventual president of Florida Realtors, the powerful organization whose mission is to "advance Florida's real estate industry.'' [Photo courtesy of media.floridarealtors.org]
  6. A Tampa taxi odyssey: Are our cabs really not up to snuff?

    News

    TAMPA — The taxi cabs here might not be the newest, swankiest ones on Earth. But are they really the "deplorable, embarrassing" pigsties that one critic alleges?

    Hotel developer Lou Plasencia blasted the city's taxi industry during a recent meeting of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association. Tampa cabs, which also go to St. Petersburg and Clearwater, give visitors a bad impression of the area, he complained. ...

    John Bailey drives the streets of downtown Tampa in the taxi he leases from A-1 cab company. A-1 drivers are self-employed and required to provide their own receipts, a dispatcher said.
  7. Florida's swollen ranks of lawyers scrap for piece of a shrinking legal pie

    Business

    Ask Jason Fraser how many jobs he applied for after graduating from law school last year and this is what he says:

    "Maybe 10 or 20 when it was someplace I wanted to work. Maybe 50 when I started getting desperate.''

    After searching from Ocala to Miami, Fraser finally landed a public defender's post in Pasco County in June. But his months of job-hunting raises another question, one that nags at many in the legal profession:...

    At Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport less than 6 percent of the 2013 graduates were unemployed.
  8. At elegant Signature Place in St. Pete, nothing classy about Unit 2403

    Crime

    One January evening last year, St. Petersburg police got multiple calls about "yelling and banging'' in an unusual location: a $500,000 condo in the luxury high-rise Signature Place.

    Two officers quickly made their way to Unit 2403, where they found the door kicked in. On the floor inside, they saw broken glass, droplets of blood and several braids yanked from the head of a young woman brawling with two older men. ...

    Since late 2012, many of the police calls have involved Trimetrius Denise Austin.
  9. HomePath offers a road to bargains

    News

    For Michelle Marshall, the road to home ownership turned out to be a path.

    In December, she closed on a Tarpon Springs bungalow she found through the HomePath program of the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae. The 1,870-square-foot house lured her with its two fireplaces, a vaulted ceiling and, at $124,000, a price well below the appraised value.

    "It's a really a unique house,'' said Marshall, who shares it with her two teenage children. "I love this house.''...

    Michelle Marshall, 56, of Tarpon Springs holds her dog, Calli, in the front yard of the 1,800-square-foot home she bought through HomePath, a program that offers Fannie Mae-owned properties. She bought the house in December for $124,000, nearly $25,000 below its assessed value.
  10. The Englishwoman who created modern Iraq

    Perspective

    Editor's note: This is an updated version, including new reporting, of a story that ran shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    One man called her "the most objectionable person I've ever met." Another deemed her "mighty and valiant." But none could deny that in her fur boas and flowered hats, Gertrude Bell cut a unique figure as she roamed the Middle East in the early years of the 20th century. ...

    English archaeologist and traveler Gertrude Bell at age 53.
  11. Tenants caught in quagmire of homeowners association foreclosures

    Real Estate

    In February, a new company in Tampa called RE-710 got a terrific deal. It paid $5,700 for a five-bedroom home valued at $311,000.

    The same month, RE-710 acquired control of dozens of other houses and condos throughout the Tampa Bay area for just cents on the dollar. Aside from their bargain prices, the properties had something else in common. The buyers were also the sellers: three Tampa men, including convicted fraudster Barry Haught....

    Barry Haught has shifted properties among his companies, according to court records.
  12. Complexities of reverse mortgages snag homeowners

    Real Estate

    Well into their senior years, Kenny and Fran Goodnow were struggling to pay their mortgage in 2007 when a salesman offered what seemed like a wonderful solution.

    A reverse mortgage would tap the equity in their St. Petersburg home to pay off their existing loan and give them extra cash for travel, a new car, a nest egg. Best of all, they could stay in their house.

    The couple only had to take care of the property taxes and insurance, which totalled barely $100 a month back then. ...

  13. More than 4,000 Floridians sign up for Hardest Hit mortgage reduction program

    Real Estate

    Good news for underwater homeowners current on their mortgage payments: There's still time to apply for a program that could cut your unpaid balance by up to $50,000.

    Florida housing officials re-opened a federally funded mortgage relief program last week. As of Thursday, 4,127 homeowners had signed up.

    That's way down from September, when the Hardest Hit Fund Principal Reduction Program hit its cap of 25,000 applicants within a few days. So far, 2,400 of those homeowners have been helped and more than 6,000 have been turned down....

    Tim Gibbons and Jayne Lisbeth stand in front of their Seminole Heights home built in 1956 which they bought 8 years ago. In January they were approved by the Florida Hardest Hit Principal Reduction Fund but Wells Fargo refused to take the money. Lisbeth said that without the help of Kathy Castors office, Wells Fargo would never have helped her pay down her mortgage.
  14. Almighty dollar motivates ministry, former South Pasadena tenants say

    News

    SOUTH PASADENA — Keith Burke thought he had found the perfect home — canal-side, moderately priced, in a quiet neighborhood.

    That is until Pastor Jeffrey Polhill leased the rundown house next door and started renting out rooms for $500 a month.

    In the past year, Burke has helped and consoled many of Polhill's tenants, who have complained to him of rats, roaches, electrical shorts, uncollected garbage and rude treatment by Polhill and his wife, Vonda. Burke has even helped some tenants move out before their leases expired because conditions were so bad....

    Touched by an Angel Ministry rents shared rooms in a small, rundown South Pasadena house for $500 a month per person.
  15. Turmoil roils Gulfcoast Legal Services

    Corporate

    When Gulfcoast Legal Services looked for a new executive director, one candidate had the wow factor — Kathleen Mullin, a seasoned trial lawyer and TV legal analyst.

    "She was very bright, very enthusiastic'' said Ramon Carrion, president of Gulfcoast's board.

    Yet barely a year after hiring Mullin, Carrion joined his colleagues in a resounding vote of "no confidence.'' Mullin left her $115,000 a year job in February, the sounds of Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead playing on one staffer's cellphone....

    Kathleen Mullin left Gulfcoast Legal Services in February.