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Opening of Stein Mart delayed because of permit problems

Site work at the discount department store should start this week, with the opening expected in January.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 2001


TAMPA PALMS -- People eager to do some of their Christmas shopping at the Stein Mart in City Plaza will probably have to wait until next year.

More delays with the final permits have pushed back the department store opening until about January, according to the developer.

"Mark my words, I'm going to see this done or I'll be ridden out of town on a rail," said Bob Abberger, one of the plaza's owners.

Construction originally was to start last fall, but has been postponed several times because of permitting delays. The latest involves the fire marshal's office.

Abberger said he had verbal approval for the permit, but nothing in writing. When fire officials inspected, they said the site needed more striping to ensure fire trucks have access to the back of the building.

"I thought I had all of the issues behind me, but then we had one more thing," he said.

Abberger expected to get the permit Friday and start site work this week. All parties have signed the lease and the general contractor is ready to start work, he said. He refuted recent rumors that Stein Mart has pulled out.

"They (Stein Mart) are livid with me that I haven't started moving dirt," he said. "They want in."

The 35,000-square-foot store will be built on vacant land north of the center, originally set aside for a movie theater. Lenny & Vinny's and Subway will relocate to the former day care center, and the existing breezeway will become the shopping center's front.

The store has been viewed as a mixed blessing in Tampa Palms. Some welcome the addition of a department store in New Tampa, while others worry about noise, traffic and parking problems.

"It's going to stink for the next six months getting in and out of this place," said Jake McGinnis, a cook at Lenny & Vinny's. But he said that ultimately, the plaza will benefit.

Based in Jacksonville, Stein Mart sells discount clothing, accessories and home decor items. The City Plaza location would be the third Stein Mart in Hillsborough County and one of the first clothing stores in New Tampa. Stein Mart's other area stores are in Carrollwood and South Tampa.

- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463.

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