Ithaca, N.Y. — Could the rebuilt Simeon’s Restaurant include two new balconies?
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That’s perhaps the biggest change being discussed for the reconstruction of the building that housed the well-known Ithaca eatery, which was badly damaged in a fatal June 2014 crash, according to Lisa Nicholas, senior planner for Ithaca.
Previously, dining was contained to the first floor of Simeon’s, according to Nicholas. One idea being floated is to expand the restaurant’s dining area to the second floor and add in the balconies as an additional outdoor seating option.
In general, Nicholas said, the proposed designs for the rebuilt “Griffin Block” building are in line with what was there before the accident.
“It’s primarily a rebuild of what it looked like before: a brick building, with the same height, the same general features,” Nicholas said.
“What they’re proposing is a beautiful building; what was there before was a beautiful building.”
Here’s a design from architect Jason Demarest, courtesy of Ithacating’s Brian Crandall:
Another big change being discussed is to move the entrance of the building from the middle of the restaurant to its side, according to Nicholas.
“They want to change the entrance from the middle to the side farthest from the corner because they found the entrance to the middle kind of broke up the dining room,” Nicholas says. “…That gives them more flexibility.”
On June 20, 2014, pregnant young mother Amanda Bush was killed when a tractor-trailer crashed into Simeon’s Restaurant. Several others were hospitalized.
Two lawsuits have been filed in connection with the crash, including one on behalf of the Cornell Barber Shop, which has also been closed since the accident.
Viacheslav Grychanyi, 37, of Spokane, Wash., has been identified as the truck’s driver. Though he was issued two traffic tickets, it’s still unclear if more serious charges are pending.
Last week, the city denied a Freedom of Information Law request filed by The Voice for results of the police investigation into the crash.
In doing so, the city said turning over responsive documents “would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings. The record you have requested relates to an active/pending investigation. As such it cannot be made public at this time.”
As the investigation continues, so does the work to reconstruct the building.
Demarest, the architect, appeared at Ithaca’s planning board meeting in late February alongside building manager Jerry Dietz, of CSP Management, according to The Ithaca Times.
One member of the planning board, Jack Elliot, expressed reservations about the addition of the balconies,” according to The Ithaca Times.
Dean Zervos, a co-owner of Simeon’s, said in an interview with The Voice on Tuesday that it’s still too early to know what will happen but that the owner of the building — who lives in Texas — would make the ultimate decision.
“There are a lot of plans out there, but nothing is final,” Zervos said. “It all comes down to what the owner wants to do.”
Nicholas expressed similar sentiments and stressed that the possible balconies (one is being considered to stretch over the Commons; the other would hang over Aurora Street) are still very much in the planning stages.
“They still have some feasibility issues to look into — whether they can build them, what obstacles they might have with approvals,” Nicholas said. “Right now, it’s pretty conceptual.”
Still, what’s not in doubt is that the reconstruction of the Griffin Block building — and the reopening of Simeon’s Restaurant — will represent a significant milestone for the city.
“We’re thrilled that they want to rebuild it,” she said. “I think it will be great for the Commons and to help heal from the tragedy that happened.”