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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. Will Hurricane Irma slow Tampa Bay's booming real estate market?

    Real Estate

    Expecting the worst from Hurricane Irma, Tampa real estate agent Jeff Shelton fled to Atlanta where wind-whipped trees toppled onto two rental properties he owns. Back in Florida, his house and beachfront condo both survived Irma unscathed.

    That's the kind of story he's happy to share with clients.

    "I've got two executives with a major company that are relocating from Cincinnati and they don't have any concerns about moving to Florida," Shelton said. "California has its earthquakes and wild fires and mud slides and there are tornados throughout the Midwest. In Florida you know you're going to have hurricanes but what people are trying to do is be prepared. I think Florida real estate is still very attractive."...

    Mark Stroud poses for a photo in front of Sunset Pointe at Collany Key in Tierra Verde on Thursday, Sept. 14. No buyers backed out of contracts at the building due to Hurricane Irma.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]

  2. Five ways that Hurricane Irma is one for the record books

    Business

    Are you among the millions of people affected by Hurricane Irma? If so, you have bona fide bragging rights — you've lived through a storm that has set these five mind-boggling records:

    • 185 mph winds for 37 hours — the longest any cyclone anywhere on earth has maintained that intensity. (Typhoon Haiyan in the Pacific Ocean set the previous record at 24 hours.)

    • 3.25 days as a Category 5 hurricane — the most ever, tied with a 1932 storm in Cuba....

    Ed Rappaport, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center, looked wary on Saturday as Hurricane Irma approached. It turned into a record-setter in more ways than one.
[Associated Press]
  3. Can't find that house in public records? It could have a protected address

    Real Estate

    Perhaps this has happened to you.

    Driving around, you spot a house you like. You decide to look on the property appraiser's web site to see who owns it, how big it is, how much it's worth. But when you put in the address, nothing comes up. Nada.

    You've just encountered a protected address.

    Throughout the Tampa Bay area, thousands of homes have all but disappeared from the public record because their owners are eligible under Florida law to have their addresses kept confidential. Initially, the idea was to protect judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers whose jobs put them in jeopardy. Over time, though, the list of occupations eligible for protected addresses has ballooned to include people who check if your grass is too high or if you're cutting hair without a license....

    Can't find out who is living down the street? You're not alone. More homeowners have gotten their names protected from being included in public real estate records. 
[LUIS SANTANA  |   Times file photo]
  4. Another condo tower in St. Pete, a modest 16 stories, it's Bezu

    News

    St. Petersburg

    Another high-end condo tower to come up near Beach Drive

    In a case of back to the future, a 16-story condo tower is once again planned for a site in downtown St. Petersburg. Hotel owner Steve Gianfilippo has filed preliminary plans with the city for Bezu, a 29-unit tower on Fourth Avenue NE two blocks west of Beach Drive. Gianfilippo did not return calls and emails for comment, but the project reflects the continued demand for high-end condos near the city's premier waterfront dining and entertainment strip. Bezu will rise on a stretch of Fourth Avenue NE that already has the Bliss and Rowland Place condos. Former Florida House Speaker Peter Rudy Wallace and his wife, Helen, also plan a small condo project next to the home they built on Beach Drive. Gianfilippo owns several properties in downtown St. Petersburg, including the 1920s-era Cordova Inn, the Coronet apartments and the 103-year-old Station House, future home of an Ichicoro Ramen restaurant. — Susan Taylor Martin, smartin@tampabay.com...

    Bezu, a 16-story, 29-unit condo tower, is planned for 4th Avenue NE in St. Petersburg.
  5. Another new condo tower planned for downtown St. Petersburg

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — In a case of back to the future, a 16-story condo tower is once again planned for a site in downtown St. Petersburg.

    Hotel owner Steve Gianfilippo has filed preliminary plans with the city for Bezu, a 29-unit tower on 4th Avenue NE two blocks west of Beach Drive. Gianfilippo did not return calls and emails for comment, but the project reflects the continued demand for high-end condos near the city's premier waterfront dining and entertainment strip. ...

    Another condo tower is planned for downtown St. Petersburg.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
 2016 file photo]

  6. As Irma nears, do those big construction cranes across Tampa Bay make you nervous?

    Real Estate

    Those giant construction cranes looming overhead are a sign of progress in the Tampa Bay area although they pose an unnerving sight as Hurricane Irma approaches.

    But you can probably rest easy — tower cranes are designed to withstand the highest winds Tampa Bay is apt to see.

    "One of the design features of tower cranes that makes them so sturdy is that they will spin just like a weather vane when the wind speeds get higher," said Scott Gerard, a vice president of Moss Construction, one of Florida's largest construction companies. "It looks a little disconcerting when you see it because you think something is wrong, but that is normal and a safety feature of cranes."...

    This photo from April shows construction under way in downtown St. Petersburg. Giant construction cranes like these will likely be staying in place amid the looming threat of Hurricane Irma. 
[ROBERT TRIGAUX | Times file photo]
  7. A $13.2 million sale brings 345 more luxury apartments to Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Westshore Marina District is destined to transform Tampa's western waterfront but the work will be done almost exclusively by South Florida developers.

    Bainbridge Companies of Palm Beach County closed Friday on a 12-acre, $13.2 million parcel on which it plans 345 luxury apartments. That follows the sale of smaller parcels earlier this year to Miami's Related Group and WCI Communities, a subsidiary of Miami-based Lennar....

    Bainbridge Companies of Palm Beach County closed Friday on a 12- acre, $13.2 million parcel as part of the Westshore Marina District project. It plans to build 345 luxury apartments there. [Courtesy of BTI Partners]
  8. Tampa's Convergent Capital plans $150 million in real estate investments in next three years

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's best known private equity firms, Convergent Capital Partners, has closed on its third fund and raised $50 million for new real estate investments.

    Convergent, whose holdings have included Tampa's Aloft hotel and the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach, already is under contract for two properties in Tampa, managing director Nik Sachdev said Friday. He did not give details but said one is hospitality-related and the other is mixed-use....

    Left to right, Nik Sachdev, Paul Beraquit and Santosh Govindaraju of Tampa's Comvergent Capital Partners have closed on the firm's third fund and raised $50 million for new real estate investments. Convergent plans to invest a total of  more than $150 million in real estate, including properties across the Tampa Bay market, over the next three years. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  9. Where is O.J. Simpson moving to in Florida?

    Real Estate

    Just a month before his release from a Nevada prison, it's still not clear whether O.J. Simpson will move to the Tampa Bay area.

    This week, The New York Post cited an unnamed O.J. Simpson "insider" as saying that Simpson's family had purchased a house for him in a gated community in St. Petersburg.

    Records hinted that the former NFL star and convicted felon might start life as a free man again in the gated Pasadena Yacht and Country Club. ...

    O.J. Simpson reacts after learning he would be granted parole, at a hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, July 20, 2017. Simpson will go free after serving nine years in a Nevada prison on charges stemming from an armed robbery in Las Vegas, the board ruled; he becomes eligible for release on Oct. 1. [Jason Bean | Pool via The New York Times]
  10. Downtown St. Pete's Hyatt Place to open in September

    Retail

    Hyatt Place Downtown St. Petersburg is slated to open in late September, well ahead of the ONE St. Petersburg condo tower still under construction next door.

    The 15-story, 175-room Hyatt will feature a 5,000-square- foot "creative restaurant concept'' and a 5,500 -square-foot rooftop pool deck and bar with views of Tampa Bay. It will also have three full-service bars and a sidewalk cafe. ...

    The 175-room Hyatt Place Downtown St. Petersburg is scheduled to open in late September. [Rendering courtesy of Kolter Hospitality]
  11. Developers spar over whether Tampa's planned Riverwalk Tower should have more residences

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Should the 53-story Riverwalk Tower planned for downtown Tampa have more residences and less office space? That's at the heart of a dispute between the developers of the $225-million project billed as a showpiece of the city's riverfront redevelopment.

    According to a lawsuit filed this month in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Riverwalk Tower Investment - Intown LLC was to handle the residential portion of the tower while Larry Feldman's Feldman Equities was in charge of the office component. Intown said problems began when a potential lender hired broker Darren Hornig to evaluate the project....

    ccording to a lawsuit filed this month in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Riverwalk Tower Investment - Intown LLC was to handle the residential portion of the tower while Larry Feldman's Feldman Equities was in charge of the office component. Intown said problems began when a potential lender hired broker Darren Hornig to evaluate the project. [LARA CERRI   |  Times]

  12. Tampa's LM Funding America continues to struggle

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Less than two years after it went public, LM Funding America, Inc. says it might not be able to say in business unless it can refinance its debt by year's end.

    In its latest filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tampa debt collection company said it experienced "significant operating losses" through June 30 of this year and had failed to make a quarterly principal payment to its main lender,...

    LM Funding America celebrated going public in October, 2015. Less than two years later, the Tampa company says it might not be able to say in business unless it can refinance its debt by year's end.
[Courtesy Nasdaq
]

  13. Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown named president of Poynter Institute

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Neil Brown, editor and vice president of the Tampa Bay Times, will become the new president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, the center for journalism education that owns the Times.

    In a meeting with the Times staff Monday, Brown, 59, said that while he is neither "bored nor weary" of his current job, he is excited about the chance to "make a difference more broadly" in an industry facing almost unprecedented challenges and attacks. ...

    Neil Brown, editor of the Tampa Bay Times, has been named president of the Poynter Institute. [Times]
  14. Report: Florida agency spent $100,000-plus on own employees instead of helping homeowners

    Real Estate

    Instead of doing all it could to help struggling homeowners, Florida's housing agency spent more than $100,000 in federal Hardest Hit funds on bonuses and perks for its own employees.

    That was among the findings of a report released Friday by the special inspector general for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was started after the Great Recession.

    As thousands of people waited for financial aid to save their homes, Florida Housing Finance Corp. treated employees to $106,775 in bonuses, Visa gift cards and barbecue from Piggy's BBQ in Tallahassee, the report said. That sum was part of the $3 million in Hardest Hit funds improperly used by agencies in several states that administer the mortgage relief program. ...

    A federal report has been critical of expenditures made by Stephen Auger when he was executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. [Company file photo]
  15. Sizzling home sales in Tampa Bay cool down, but bank-owned houses still fetch big bucks

    Real Estate

    Could those dramatic gains in Tampa Bay home prices really be slowing down? July sales figures hint that the long-running sellers' market might be shifting more in favor of buyers.

    In Hillsborough County, where the median price of a house hit $240,000 in July, it was the third straight month in which prices rose by just a single digit from the same month the year before.

    In Pinellas, July's 11.6 percent increase — also to $240,000 — was the second smallest in a year. ...

    This four-bedroom, three-bath bank-owned home on three acres in Odessa sold for $497,500  in July, making it Pasco County's priciest foreclosure of the month. It last sold in 2007 for $419,900. [Courtesy of Tampa Suncoast Realty]