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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 has two new million-dollar ZIP Code areas — is yours one of them?

    Real Estate

    You might not be a millionaire, but chances are greater now that you live in a million-dollar Tampa Bay neighborhood.

    In the past year, the region has gained two more ZIP code areas — downtown St. Petersburg's 33701 and South Tampa's 33609 — in which at least 10 percent of the homes are worth $1 million or more, Zillow says.

    That brings the total of Tampa Bay high-end ZIPS to six and marks a bigger one-year gain than in many other metro areas including Atlanta, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Chicago and Orlando....

    Downtown St. Petersburg's 33701 ZIP Code recently became one of the 1,280 residential ZIPs in the United States in which at least 10 percent of the homes are worth $1 million or more. The top-floor penthouse of Ovation, a condo tower on Beach Drive shown here, sold last year for a record $6.9 million. [Photo courtesy of the Malowany Group.]
  2. Why are so few Tampa Bay houses for sale? They're being rented

    Real Estate

    Oreste Mesa Jr. owns a modest 40-year-old house in West Tampa just off MacDill Avenue. It's an area where many homeowners are hearing the siren song of builders and cashing out while the market is strong.

    But Mesa has no intention of joining them. Since he and his wife stuck a "for rent" sign on the lawn this summer, they've had their pick of tenants from among 80 callers.

    "We don't need the money as far as selling it," Mesa says, "and right now we get more in rent than we would if we invested in something else."...

    The owner of this house in West Tampa says he has had more than 80 calls from people wanting to rent it.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Times]

  3. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    BTI Partners, master developer of the $600 million district, has started an "interest list" of potential buyers in the 16-story Marina Pointe tower overlooking Tampa Bay.

    Prices for the seven townhomes and 112 condos in the boomerang-shaped tower will range from the $600,000s to more than $1.5 million. Among the features: a two-level lobby with concierge service; a Residents' Pointe Club with bar; a massage, yoga and exercise studio; and locker rooms with steam rooms and showers. An elevated amenity deck is to include a pool, fireplace, bocce ball court and summer kitchen. ...

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  4. A $1 million bayfront house among Tampa bishop's questionable deals

    Business

    TAMPA — Bishop Melvin Jefferson and his wife, Brenda, have a busy travel schedule this year as they spread the word of their Tampa-based ministry. Atlanta; New Orleans; Austin, Texas; Kenya.

    There's one stop they didn't tout: a court-ordered trip to Detroit on Aug. 30.

    For 13 years, Melvin Jefferson and his Deeper Life Christian Church have failed to pay a $1.5 million judgment stemming from their aborted purchase of a historic theater in Detroit. Officials there want to grill the 68-year-old Jefferson on his financial affairs as they try to determine whether he and the church should be forced to pay up....

    Bishop Melvin Jefferson and his wife, Brenda, rented this 20,000-square-foot mansion on Lake Tarpon starting in 2013 at a monthly rent of $10,000. Since they moved out in June, the owner has sued them for allegedly causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and for  taking chandeliers, sinks, a refridgerator, fireplace manel and thousands of dollars of other items without paying for them. 
[JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  5. Bill Edwards' firm is sole defendant after Wells Fargo settles suit for $108 million

    Real Estate

    Wells Fargo will pay the federal government $108 million to settle a federal whisteblower case, leaving Bill Edwards and his St. Petersburg-based Mortgage Investors Corp.as the sole remaining defendants.

    The nation's third largest bank agreed to the payment to avoid trial this month on allegations that it, Mortgage Investors Corp.(MIC) and other lenders cheated veterans and taxpayers out of millions of dollars by charging illegal fees and then seeking to collect on federal loan guarantees when borrowers defaulted....

    Wells Fargo will pay the federal government $108 million to settle a federal whisteblower case, leaving Bill Edwards and his St. Petersburg-based Mortgage Investors Corp.as the sole remaining defendants.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times 2016 file photo]
  6. Well-known Tampa Bay lawyer hit with another Florida Bar complaint

    Real Estate

    For the fourth time in four years, the Florida Bar has filed a complaint accusing prominent Tampa Bay lawyer Mark Stopa of professional misconduct.

    The most recent complaint, filed July 27, says Stopa defied a judge's order in one mortgage foreclosure case and represented two people in another case without their knowledge or consent.

    If found guilty, Stopa could face penalties ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment. The 40-year-old Stopa, who represented hundreds of homeowners during the foreclosure crisis and was often quoted in the media, called it "a shame'' to focus attention on a few complaints after he helped so many owners. ...

    For the fourth time in four years, the Florida Bar has filed a complaint accusing prominent Tampa Bay lawyer Mark Stopa of professional misconduct. 
[File photo from Stopa Law Firm]

  7. Mecca for galas, Tampa's A La Carte Pavilion finally sells for $10.5 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — A La Carte Pavilion, home to scores of weddings, charity galas and other events over the years, is making way for residences.

    Taylor Morrison, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, closed this week on the 13-acre waterfront site for $10.5 million, a year after another builder backed out.

    The seller, Egypt Shrine Holding Corp., has received $3 million and will hold a $7.5 million mortgage while Taylor Morrison goes through the permitting process....

    The A la Carte Pavilion on Dana Shores Drive in Tampa is being sold. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
  8. Tampa's historic Perfecto Garcia cigar factory is for sale

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — During the heyday of the cigar industry, Perfecto Garcia and his brothers employed more than 1,000 people in their fields, their stores and in the big brick factory on 16th Street where workers rolled the finest Cuban tobacco into namesake cigars.

    The factory closed in 1982, victim of the Cuban embargo, mechanization, consolidation and changing consumer tastes. But the century-old Perfecto Garcia building with distinctive water tower still stands and is now on the market — awaiting a new lease on life....

    The northwest view from the roof of the The J.C. Newman Cigar Company, Tampa, shows the Ybor City neighborhood and the abandoned Perfecto Garcia and Brothers cigar factory, left with its water tower. 
[SCOTT KEELER   |   TIMES]

  9. Going once -- frothy market leads more owners to auction off their houses

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Dan and Tekla Ulrich have received several offers for their vintage duplex looking out at the Marjorie Park Marina on Davis Islands. None of the offers has suited them, so on this steamy evening they are waiting for the start of an auction at which they hope their home of 40 years will finally sell for the price they want.

    But first, they must spend an hour watching potential bidders troop through, critically eying every nook and cranny....

    Dozens of people attended the July 20 auction of two duplexes on Tampa's Davis Islands.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  10. St. Pete company sues Tampa law firm, seeking more than $60 million

    Real Estate

    A St. Petersburg company is suing a major law firm and one of its Tampa partners for alleged malpractice, claiming they bungled patent applications for a prosthetic liner and a device that heats shaving cream.

    In separate lawsuits filed in federal and state court, ALPS South, LLC is seeking more than $60 million from Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and an unspecified amount from the firm and attorney Ronald Christaldi....

    In separate lawsuits filed in federal and state court, ALPS South, LLC is seeking more than $60 million from Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and an unspecified amount from the firm and attorney Ronald Christaldi, shown here, alleging malpractice. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |  Times file photo}
  11. Can a Miami-Dade preservationist save one of St. Petersburg's historic homes?

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — With time fast running out, the fate of one of St. Petersburg's oldest, most historic homes appears to rest with a South Florida preservationist.

    "It's really going to take a miracle to save that beautiful little house but I believe in miracles,'' said Kathleen Slesnick Kauffman, who until recently served as Miami-Dade County's historic preservation chief.

    Kauffman said Monday that she hopes to relocate and renovate the Victorian-style house, which was built in 1905 by a Methodist minister and once might have been the home of local African-American leader Elder Jordan. But the new owner of the house — which offered it free to anyone willing to move it — is eager to get along with plans to put eight townhomes on the site at 758 3rd Ave S....

    This home at 758 3rd Ave S. in St. Petersburg is a 111-year-old house linked to Elder Jordan, the former slave who built what is now known as the Manhattan Casino and after whom the Jordan Park housing project is named. A South Florida preservationist is making a last-ditch effort to save the house before it gives way to development. 
[LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  12. Another Pinellas foreclosure auction fools bidders, raises questions

    Real Estate

    For the second time in six weeks, a company connected to lawyer Roy C. Skelton stood poised to profit from a Pinellas County foreclosure auction that confused even experienced real estate investors.

    Like the case of a gulf-front condo that sold for $458,100 in June to an unsuspecting bidder, a Largo townhouse sold for $112,300 last week to a man who thought he was bidding on a first mortgage and would own the home free and clear. ...

    A gulf-front condo at the Ram Sea Condomininums in Reddington Beach sold for $458,100 in June to an unsuspecting bidder at a foreclosure auction who didn't realize there was another mortgage on the property.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
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  13. Tampa Bay home prices still climbing, though more slowly

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home prices rose again in June, although the once-torrid pace of increases shows signs of slowing.

    For the first time in several months, year-over-year price gains were in the single digits in two of the bay's area's four counties.

    The change was particularly striking in Pasco, where the median price for a house in June — $202,995 — rose 7 percent over the same month in 2016. In November and January, by comparison, Pasco's median price shot up almost 25 percent ...

    This home in St. Petersburg's Snell Isle area sold for $4.075 million in June, making it the most expensive sale of a single family home that month. 
[Chris Della Penna]
  14. Clearwater mansion that sold at record price is back on the market for $19.75 million

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Less than four months after it sold for a record $11.18 million, the waterfront Century Oaks estate is back on the market — for $19.75 million.

    The huge price leap reflects the fact that "it's been completely redone," listing agent Terry Novitsky said Monday. Among the upgrades: new carpeting throughout the 17,000- square-foot home, new Versace wallpaper, a new master bathroom and a new movie theater. The three-bedroom, three- bath guesthouse also has been remodeled. ...

    The historic Century Oaks estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, which sold for $11.18 million four months ago, is back on the market.
[Courtesy: Coastal Properties Group
]

  15. Is sinkhole damage sinking Tampa Bay property values?

    Real Estate

    On a scale of desirability, the house for sale on Whittner Drive in Land O' Lakes would rank fairly low. It's a short sale; it sits on an unstabilized sinkhole and it's within a few miles of two houses that collapsed into a gargantuan hole July 14.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: As Pasco sinkhole widens, more homes put on alert ...

    A gated community in Hernando's Spring Hill area, Pristine Place has long been susceptible to sinkholes with nearly a third of its houses with documented sinkhole damage by 2012. Today, however, many houses with repaired sinkhole damage are selling for more than houses without any issues. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times file photo]