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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. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI, Lennar Corp.'s high-end subsidiary, paid $2.5 million for the land on which it will build 35 townhomes. They will be adjacent to the 396 rental apartments planned by the Related Group.

    The townhome project "will be the first for-sale offering, and with the WCI brand it indicates a level of product that we think is a great benefit to the site," said Beck Daniel, an executive of BTI Partners, master developer of Westshore Marina District. "This is the first thing that the retail buyer can look at and say, 'This is an opportunity for us to buy.'" ...

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  2. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages

    Business

    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Named after the popular Jamaican marine artist and conservationist, the Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Community Tarpon Springs has begun taking reservations for lots and upscale cottages just north of the Pinellas-Pasco county line where the Anclote River empties into the Gulf of Mexico....

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  3. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The justices accepted the recommendation of a court-appointed referee, who found that Kalogianis was "drenched in deceitful motive" in his dealings with 74-year-old Jacqueline Drury.

    Kalogianis, who turns 54 on Saturday, still faces felony criminal charges for allegedly altering mortgage foreclosure records to benefit homeowners he represented....

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  4. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    On Wednesday, two agents interviewed Pastor Minnie Wright, who says Clavizzao scammed her and her Plant City church out of nearly $20,000 while he was still on probation from a mortgage fraud conviction. The agents' visit came four days after the Tampa Bay Times published a story about Wright's experience with Clavizzao and what turned out to be a phony loan company....

    Pastor Minnie Wright of the New Testament Outreach Holiness Church #2, holds a digital drawing of the church building she hoped to build. The FBI is investigating allegations that loan broker Victor Thomas Clavizzao swindled Wright and members of her congregation out of nearly $20,000 intended to go to the construction.
[ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  5. Tampa Bay home prices still soaring amid tight supply

    Real Estate

    Sales of Tampa Bay homes dropped in April but prices surged yet again as Florida's real estate market continued to be defined by tight supply and high demand.

    Compared to the same month last year, the median price for a single family home rose 12.5 percent here, the most of any major metro area in the state.

    But despite that increase and Tampa Bay's most expensive residential sale ever — $11.18 million for Clearwater's Century Oaks estate — there was a hint that the pace of price growth may be slowing just a bit. ...

    The historic Century Oaks estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor has sold for $11.18 million, the most ever paid for a home in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy: Coastal Properties Group]
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
[SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN   |   Times]
  8. 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]
  9. 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. ...

    A construction worker earlier this year walks along the beams of the Bainbridge Ybor City luxury apartments, slated to open this summer in Tampa. Currently, developers are seeing signs of a tighter lending environment, particularly for apartments, hotel and retail projects.
 [OCTAVIO JONES   |  Times]
  10. 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 Dronebase.com]
  11. 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.
  12. 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 http://www.meiaoju.com website]
  13. 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.
[MARTHA RIAL | Times]
  14. 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.
[iStockphoto.com]
  15. Tampa Bay home sellers make big profits but nothing like 2006

    Blog

    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.