ONEONTA _ The town of Oneonta has cleared the way for work to continue at the future Steve & Barry's store at the Southside Mall.

The low-cost clothing retailer had originally anticipated a pre-Christmas 2007 opening, but officials with the company are now saying their doors will open this summer.

The delay is due in part to poor roof conditions at the former Kmart store that closed in 2003, according to Oneonta Town Supervisor Robert Wood.

The 82,000-square-foot space at the west end of the Southside Mall has been vacant since the former anchor store left.

"It's not so much that it was unsafe, but that it needs to be repaired," Wood said. "I think it was because the space was unoccupied and unheated."

The town code enforcement office suspended one of two building permits applied for by Steve & Barry's because of concerns about structural integrity, according to Wood.

"At one point, there was a large leak that was running down into the electrical panel," Wood said.

A building permit was issued in November 2007 for interior renovations and roof repairs.

However, Steve & Barry's found additional work needed to be done on the roof, Wood said.

"Their engineer was concerned that it may need more than just repair, that it may need replacement," Wood said.

The second building permit covers the actual replacement of the roof coverings above the former Kmart, according to Oneonta Town Code Enforcement Officer Paul Neske.

"That building permit is no longer suspended," Neske said.

The suspension of that permit was lifted May 14, he said.

Southside Mall Manager Jessica Dombrowski said engineers were working at the site last week and actual construction on the roof has gotten under way.

But she said it remains unclear when Steve & Barry's will open.

"I don't have an opening date," she said.

Building permits in the town of Oneonta are good for one year.

"We will be monitoring the work on a regular basis," Neske said. "There are inspections that are required with all building permits."

Neske said he is not aware of any other structural or safety issues with the 25-year-old mall.

Steve & Barry's officials did not directly respond to a series of questions regarding the delay that were e-mailed to them and instead issued a prepared statement:

"Steve & Barry's is committed to opening our new location at the Southside Mall. We pride ourselves on the unique shopping experience that we deliver to our customers, which sometimes requires that we do construction on our stores, and unfortunately, the long winter has delayed some work we were planning to do on the roof," said Steve & Barry's spokeswoman Rachel Brenner in the statement.

"We are looking forward to opening in Southside Mall this summer and bringing our unparalleled shopping experience to the people of Oneonta," Brenner continued

Steve & Barry's started in 1985 as a retailer catering to college students. The company eventually broadened its range of merchandise, and in recent years, Steve & Barry's has added celebrity lines of clothing and sneakers.

All of the items carried in the chain's stores sell for less than $20.

Dombrowski said she would not discuss the terms of the 7-year lease that Steve & Barry's has with the mall except to say the terms had not changed from last fall.

She would also not discuss who was paying for the roof repair.

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