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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. Housing scam: Rise of fraudulent deeds throws wrench into home ownership

    Real Estate

    Two years ago, Realtor Rod Banks put a vacant home in Valrico on the market. One day, when he stopped by to check on the house, it was vacant no more.

    Someone had moved in, along with roomfuls of furniture. There were sofas, throw pillows and a cocktail table in the living room. Paintings hung on the walls. One bedroom had been transformed into a cozy den.

    To Banks' surprise, a woman who was clearly living in the spacious pool home produced a deed showing she owned it. Except that she didn't. The deed was a fraud. ...

    Two women using a fraudulent deed "stole'' this $300,000 home in a gated community in Valrico, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren says. Roomfuls of furniture were  moved into the house while it was on the market and supposedly vacant. [Courtesy of Rod Banks]
  2. Workers at luxury St. Pete condo tower say they are owed thousands

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly three dozen workers at ONE St. Petersburg, a luxury condo tower under construction in the heart of downtown, haven't been paid in weeks and are owed thousands of dollars.

    With the holidays nearing, some of the men say they are so short of money their phone service has been cut off, they face eviction and they can't afford a Thanksgiving spread for their families. ...

    Construction workers Robert Cabral, left, and John Obermeier, both of Hudson, have not been paid in weeks. They are masons for the ONE St. Petersburg luxury condo building, shown in background, in the city's downtown. [Lara Cerri   |  Times]
  3. Hurricane Irma hurt some Tampa Bay home sales even in October

    Real Estate

    Pinellas County home sales took another hurricane-related hit in October as the rest of the Tampa Bay area bounced back from Hurricane Irma.

    But while prices in all four counties rose once again, the rate of increase continues to slow. Hillsborough's 3.6 percent increase was the lowest in more than two years although the county recorded the second highest price paid for a Tampa Bay home this year. ...

    This bayfront home in Tampa's Culbreath Isles sold in October for $6.48 million, the second highest amount paid for a residential property in the Tampa Bay area so far this year. [Judson Brady Photography]
  4. Seminole Heights killings worry Realtors but impact so far is limited

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Four unsolved killings in a month have definitely shaken Seminole Heights. Less certain is whether they are hurting one of Tampa Bay's hottest real estate markets.

    Some agents say they've seen no effect at all. Others are getting nervous.

    "I don't know that it's having a huge impact, but it certainly beginning to have a bit of an impact," said Rick Fifer, whose Vintage Homes Realty is based in Seminole Heights and specializes in the area's quaint bungalows. "There have been some people that have cancelled showings, and we had a buyer we were working with who chose to put it on hold as far as the location." ...

    Authorities, shown here on Monday, have beefed up their presence in Seminole Heights in the wake of the fourth unsolved killing in a month. Some real estate agents say the shootings have put a pall on the housing market.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Tampa's Club Skye profits from music but doesn't pay for it, suit says

    Business

    TAMPA — Club Skye, Tampa Bay's best known hip-hop club, is accused of playing music for years without paying for it.

    In a suit filed this week in federal court in Tampa, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is alleging copyright infringement by the club at 1509 E. 8th Ave. in Ybor City.

    "This has been going on for a number of years. It has never been licensed by ASCAP and in fact we've been repeatedly reaching out to them to offer a license that would allow them the right and ability to play our members' music," Jackson Wagener, ASCAP's vice president of business and legal affairs, said today. . "They've never done so and they continue to play music'' without a license."...

     Club Skye, Tampa Bay's best known hip-hop club, is accused of playing music for years without paying for it. In this file photo, rapper Lil Wayne performs at Club Skye to a packed house.
[LUIS SANTANA | Times, 2015]
  6. Judge: 'I've never seen such horrible treatment' of a homeowner

    Real Estate

    As head of civil processing for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Sgt. Tim Grundmann supervised employees who serve subpoenas, eviction notices and notices of foreclosure.

    Thus it was embarrassing to Grundmann when a clerk told him:

    "You're being sued. You're being foreclosed on."

    That was in 2013, when the Tampa Bay area was still reeling from the housing crash and 70,000 homeowners in Pinellas alone had been hit with foreclosure notices. The overwhelming majority of those had not been paying their mortgages and were living in their houses rent free. ...

    Retired Pinellas County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Grundmann, 52, and his wife, Carol Grundmann, 53, have spent four years battling their bank and loan servicer (Green Tree, now Ditech) over a wrongful foreclosure on their home in Seminole, background. Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge John Schaefer, who called it the "most horrible treatment I've ever seen by a financial institution to its customer," recently entered a $231,000 judgment in their favor and against the lender.[DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  7. Those tiny Tampa apartments are out, regular apartments are in

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Goodbye micro apartments, hello regular apartments.

    Urban Core Holdings has scrapped its plans for 120 teeny apartments at 220 Madison Street in favor of 48 more conventional ones geared toward students.

    Although the micro apartments drew an enthusiastic response when they were announced in April, the construction costs and parking requirements ultimately doomed them, Urban Core manager Omar Garcia said Tuesday....

    A Tampa company originally planned to convert the top eight floors of  a downtown building into 120 "micro-apartments'' like this of 300 to 400 square feet apiece. Now it's scrapping that plan in favor of regular apartments geared toward students. 
[Courtesy of Urban Core Holdings]
  8. Perry Snell's historic apartments getting new life

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A Kentucky druggist named C. Perry Snell moved to St. Petersburg in 1900 and began buying up land. To lure rich northerners to his new development on a nearby island, he hit on a novel idea: he would offer them a place to stay while their mansions were being built.

    The Snell Isle Garden Apartments opened in 1926 at the height of the city's first building boom. The 14 apartments were arranged around a lovely Spanish-style courtyard and expensively furnished. Each included a Steinway piano and had its own tiled porch or patio. ...

    The Snell Isle Apartments, built in the 1920s to temporarily house wealthy home buyers, recently sold for $2.25 million to a St. Petersburg company that plans to restore them "to their former glory.'' [Courtesy of Tourtelot Realty]
  9. Suit: Singer says St. Pete music promoter Bill Edwards hurt his career

    Business

    Three years ago, singer Daniel Orlando contracted with St. Petersburg entrepreneur Bill Edwards to promote his recording career. Now Orlando claims Edwards hurt both his career and his reputation in the music industry.

    In a lawsuit filed Friday in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Orlando is seeking in excess of $15,000 in damages against Edwards, Big 3 Records and Big 3 Entertainment alleging fraud and breach of contract. ...

    Singer Daniel Orlando has sued St. Petersburg entrepreneur Bill Edwards, saying he hurt his music career and reputation. Edwards is also the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
[DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times, 2016]
  10. Five ways the proposed tax plan impacts Florida

    Business

    The proposed federal tax overhaul — outlined in depth in the 429-page "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" — will affect every taxpayer differently. But in multiple ways, most Floridians will be less adversely impacted than others since Florida has no state income tax, no state estate tax and has both relatively affordable housing and median household incomes lower than most of the country.

    Here's a closer look at how five of the key provisions in the proposal could play out for Florida:...

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), accompanied by other Republican legislators, held up an example of what a "postcard" tax return might look like during a Thursday news conference to unveil a tax reform plan.
[The New York Times]
  11. Check out new, multi-million dollar look of St. Pete's Vinoy resort

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — History meets hip.

    That's the theme of the $53-million-plus renovation of the Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club, the Jazz Age resort whose reopening in 1992 after years of vacancy helped reenergize downtown St. Petersburg.

    This morning, hotel staff conducted a media tour of the tower, where all 102 guest rooms have been gutted and redone with new wallpaper, bedding, furniture and dove-gray plank tile floor. The overall look is understated with pops of hot pink and purple and whimsical touches like a flamingo in a snow globe in the Presidential Suite. Works by local artists hang on the walls, including a painting-on-photo of a 1940s Weeki Wachee mermaid. ...

    A new outdoor event space, bottom, is part of the new $53-million-plus multi-year renovation at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  12. Alabama company plans condos in downtown St. Petersburg, may limit height to 20 stories

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — An Alabama company has confirmed that it plans a condo tower for property it recently bought for $2.365 million in downtown St. Petersburg.

    Although the sky is the limit, the proposed tower less than a mile from Albert Whited Airport likely would be held to around 20 stories to avoid the need for a public hearing and getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, Beau Blackerby of BBWC St. Pete, LLC said this week. ...

    An Alabama company has confirmed that it plans a condo tower for property it recently bought for $2.365 million in downtown St. Petersburg.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
  13. Two downtown St. Petersburg houses could make way for a major condo tower

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Could another condo tower be in downtown St. Petersburg's future?

    An Alabama company recently paid a total of $2.365 million for two adjacent parcels on Third Street S that now contain an insurance firm and a 1920s house. The parcels potentially could accommodate a building more than 375 feet high — about 37 stories.

    "A multi-story building is one of the things we have explored but just on a very preliminary basis," Luther Cave, a member of the company that bought the parcels, said Monday. "We're presently researching various uses for the property."...

    An Alabama company has bought this and an adjacent house on 3rd St S in downtown St. Petersburg as the site of a  possible high-rise. The houses are across the street from the new 19-story AER apartment tower.  [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |   Times]
  14. No sprinklers: Could this condo fire death have been avoided?

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Shortly after 4:30 on the morning of Sept. 7, Kelly Winston drove away from her condo in Waterside at Coquina Key and headed to work.

    She hadn't gotten very far, just a few hundred feet, when a man ran up to her Camaro and began beating on the door and window. He had was wearing nothing but boxer shorts and had a crazed look.

    Startled and scared, Winston kept going. It was only when she stopped for gas that she saw blood on the door. ...

    Because its building are only two stories, the nearly 40 year old  Waterside at Coquina Key is not required to install sprinklers. However, the condo association for about 600 units in the south part of the complex held a vote last fall, and a majority of owners voted against sprinklers.
  15. Tampa Bay has more zombies — of a certain kind — than most anywhere

    Real Estate

    Just in time for Halloween — Tampa Bay has plenty of zombies.

    Not the reanimated corpses of Walking Dead, but vacant houses that are in some stage of foreclosure but that have not yet been repossessed by the bank.

    According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the bay area is littered with 477 zombie foreclosures, ranking it fifth among the 150 largest metro regions. Only New York-Newark, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami are more zombie-infested....

    This waterfront zombie house in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood  has been in foreclosure since 2009 and has sat vacant for years. 
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]