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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. Mortgage fraudster promised to help them build a church, then split with their money

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Every Sunday morning, members of the New Testament Outreach Holiness Church #2 gather for services in a strip shopping center on the outskirts of town. They sit in neat rows, facing a raised dais and a pulpit bedecked with flowers.

    It looks like a church, but it is not a real church building, the kind that Pastors Minnie and Sam Wright have long dreamed of having in order to spread their ministry and help more of the needy. ...

    Pastor Minnie Wright, 65, of the New Testament Outreach Holiness Church #2, poses for a portrait while holding a digital drawing of the church building she hopes to construct one day, at the site of the planned church on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Plant City, Fla.   For more than a decade, Pastor Minnie Wright dreamed of building a church for her New Testament Ministry in Plant City. She was thrilled when a loan broker named Victor Thomas offered not only to get her a $400,000 loan, but to also handle everything from the purchase agreement to the environmental studies on the plot of land she had picked out. It was only after Thomas skipped town with almost $20,000 of the church’s money that Wright discovered he was actually Victor Thomas Clavizzao, the mortgage fraudster who was still on probation after serving years in federal prison for mortgage fraud.
  2. Downtown St. Petersburg condo owners could soon lose their Bliss-ful water views

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — When a developer announced plans for the 18-story Bliss condo tower in downtown St. Petersburg in 2014, some owners in nearby Parkshore Plaza weren't happy about it.

    Bliss would block their superb water views, they grumbled.

    Now Bliss is finished, and some of its residents are about to lose their water views.

    Peter Rudy Wallace, former Speaker of the Florida House, plans a five story, four-unit condo building on a parcel he bought four years ago just east of where Bliss now stands at 176 4th Ave. NE. The project could start construction this year....

    Former Florida House Speakere Peter Rudy Wallace plans to raze the one story-building in left foreground  to build a five-story condo building that would block the views of some residents of the newly built Bliss condo tower.
  3. Study: Tampa Bay is nation's second best area for first-time homebuyers

    Real Estate

    For first- time homebuyers, you can't beat the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas.

    Despite steadily rising prices, both are relatively affordable compared to the West Coast and Northeast at a time when nearly half of all buyers are first-timers, a new Zillow report says.

    As millennials — those in the 18-34 age group — "reach the typical home buying age, they are coming into a tough housing market with low inventory and lots of competition," said Svenja Gudell, Zillow's chief economist. "More challenging metro areas aren't out of reach for new buyers, but they should be prepared to face a more competitive buying environment." ...

    A new study gives high marks to Orlando and Tampa for first-time homebuyers in the market. [Associated Press file photo]
  4. Signs of a lending squeeze for new apartments, retail and other Tampa Bay businesses

    Real Estate

    When Brian Davison announced plans to build up to 78 new condos in downtown St. Petersburg, he revealed another surprise: His company, EquiAlt, plans to "self-finance'' the project.

    That could be a smart move. Both nationally and in the Tampa Bay area, businesses are finding it harder to get money from banks these days.

    No one is saying that bay area's building boom is about to screech to a halt. But borrowers for many types of projects — especially new hotels, apartments and retail outlets — can expect to pay higher interest rates, put more of their own money into the project, or both. ...

    Loans for new apartment construction in the Tampa Bay area likely will be harder to get because there are so many units on the market, prompting some complexes like Tamarind Bay on 4th St., North in St. Petersburg to offer concessions.
  5. Tampa's waterfront Rattlesnake Point is for sale; condos and apartments could replace warehouses

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Gritty industrial activity could give way to more condos, apartments and townhomes as yet another prime waterfront tract in Tampa hits the market.

    Tampa-based Viper Ventures is selling Rattlesnake Point, nearly 31 acres on a peninsula that lies south of Gandy Boulevard and close to the Westshore Marina District master planned community.

    With unobstructed views of Old Tampa Bay, the property most likely would be redeveloped for multi-family housing with space for a restaurant, shops and a hotel....

    Rattlesnake Point, a 30.9-acre waterfront tract south of the Gandy Bridge on the Tampa side , is for sale at an undisclosed price.
[Courtesy of]
  6. Tampa company EquiAlt to build its first condos in downtown St. Petersburg

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — A Tampa company that got its start in the arcane business of bidding on tax deeds is embarking on its first condo project — two buildings in downtown St. Petersburg with a total of up to 78 units.

    The condos will replace several old houses at Third Avenue S and Fifth Street in an area that has seen an explosion of apartment construction in the past few years. Brian Davison, CEO of EquiAlt, said all of the condos will have three bedrooms because there are relatively few new rentals with that many....

    Tampa-based EquiAlt is planning up to 78 condos in downtown St. Petersburg.
  7. Chinese investors call St. Petersburg a gourmet paradise but some of their houses leave a bad taste

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than 75,000 times, viewers in China have clicked on the website of a company touting investment opportunities overseas. And one of the best places Chinese citizens can put their money, the company says, is St. Petersburg, Florida.

    Beijing-based Meiaoju lauds St. Petersburg as "A Gourmet Paradise by the Sea" — several Beach Drive restaurants are prominently featured — and calls it a seller's market where multiple buyers compete for available homes....

     Chinese investors have been buying up dozens of homes and lots in St. Petersburg, which they are now pitching to other Chinese as a great place to invest. Among the sites being pitched on a company website: Historic Kenwood.
[Screen grab from website]
  8. After prison term for Tampa Bay mortgage fraud, he's back in business

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — If mortgage fraud had a face during Tampa Bay's last housing boom, it could have been that of Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    A loan broker with a felony rap sheet, Clavizzao drew attention not only because of his hard-to-forget name but also for the brazen way in which he conned banks, Realtors and even some of his own relatives. In 2009, a federal judge sentenced Clavizzao to five years in prison for conspiring to fraudulently obtain nearly $6 million in mortgage loans. ...

    Convicted loan broker Victor Clavizzao, who is out of prison and back in the loan business, operates a company in St. Petersburg called Key Business Loans.
  9. Most Tampa Bay homes still worth less than during the boom

    Real Estate

    Despite a robust real estate market, only 10 percent of Tampa Bay homes have rebounded to their pre-recession peak value, a new report says.

    The findings by Trulia, an online real estate database, reinforce those of another recent study. That one found that while Tampa Bay home sellers are enjoying the largest price gains in 10 years, the gains are less than half of what they were in the bubble days of the mid 2000s....

    Despite a robust real estate market, only 10 percent of Tampa Bay homes are back to their pre-recession peak value, a new report says.
  10. Tampa Bay home sellers make big profits but nothing like 2006


    Worried that Tampa Bay’s housing market is getting overheated again? Consider this — the average gain on a home sale today is less than half of what it was during the boom. 

    That’s the finding of a new analysis out today that shows just how frothy the real estate market got in the mid 2000s and how much sellers lost when it crashed. 

    Tampa Bay homeowners who sold in the first three months of this year realized an average gain of $30,100 over what they originally paid, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, the parent company of RealtyTrac. ...

    Tampa Bay homeowners who sold in the first three months of this year realized an average gain of $30,100 over what they originally paid, a new analysis shows.
  11. Tampa Bay waterfront builder pioneer Jack Apple dies

    Real Estate

    Asked for the key to a successful home-building career, Gale J. "Jack'' Apple liked to say: Be honest and never build something you wouldn't live in yourself.

    It was a philosophy that served Apple well as his Apple Homes built thousands of houses — many of them waterfront — throughout the Tampa Bay area including in Apollo Beach, Venetian Isles, Shores Acres, Maximo Moorings, Yacht Club Estates, Vina del Mar Island and Isle of Capri. ...

    Homebuilder Jack Apple, shown in 2008, died last Thursday. [Times file photo]

  12. March madness for Tampa Bay home sales with double-digit price increases

    Real Estate

    With the peak selling season in full swing, Tampa home sales didn't disappoint in March — prices in all four bay area counties jumped again by double digits compared to the same time a year earlier.

    And once again, Tampa Bay outpaced every other major metro area in Florida and most of the smaller ones as well.

    "We certainly have a great, healthy market right now,'' Charles Richardson, senior regional vice president of Coldwell Banker, said Friday. "I don't see any adverse influences to cause it to slow down." ...

    This home in Brooksville sold for $1.15 million in March, making it Hernando's top sale  in four years. [Courtesy of Chris Della Penna]
  13. EB-5 program for foreign investors is increasingly popular... and contentious

    Real Estate

    At first blush, the new Wyndham Grand Resort on Clearwater Beach wouldn't seem to have much in common with an office plaza in Haines City.

    Nor would a senior care facility in Tampa tend to be mentioned in the same sentence as a Crunch Fitness center or the University of Miami's life sciences building.

    Yet all of these were funded in part by the same source — foreigners hoping to become legal permanent residents of the United States. ...

     The Tampa Bay project was partly funded by foreign money through the EB-5 visa program.
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  14. Fabled Clearwater estate sells for a record $11.18 million

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Century Oaks, a landmark estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, has sold for $11.18 million, the most ever paid for a home in the Tampa Bay area

    No other residential property has been even close to that price except for a Belleair estate that sold for $10.25 million in 2008. The top price paid for any bay area home last year was $6.9 million for a condo on St. Petersburg's Beach Drive. ...

    Century Oaks, a landmark estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, has sold for $11.180 million, the most ever paid for a home in the Tampa Bay area. 
[Courtesy of My Florida Regional Multiple Listing Service]
  15. Reservations brisk for Tampa Bay's first tiny apartments

    Real Estate

    Just a day after Tampa Bay's first tiny apartments went up for grabs, about 40 of the 120 already had been reserved. "That's not bad in 24 hours,'' Omar Garcia, manager of Urban Core Holdings, said Tuesday.

    The company, under contract to buy a downtown Tampa office building and convert it into micro apartments, began taking reservations Monday at The $50 reservation fee is refundable but the first people to reserve will have their choice of units if they end up renting. ...

    A Tampa company plans to covert the top eight floors of a downtown office building into "micro-apartments'' of about 300 to 400 square feet, aimed at young downtown workers who are willing to give up their cars for a chance to live without roommates in an affordable apartment. [Rendering courtesy of Urban Core Holdings]