ITHACA, N.Y. — For those interested in the latest news about Simeon’s, there’s some good news and bad news.

[do_widget id= text-55 ]

The good news is, the reconstruction of Simeon’s in downtown Ithaca is underway.

Photos of current construction work

Now here’s the bad news. There have been some obstacles and challenges, and the reopening has been delayed.

“It’s started,” said Jerry Dietz, president of CSP Management. CSP manages the Griffin Block, the building that houses Simeon’s, on behalf of the owners, Lang and Yong Shen of suburban St. Louis. The Shens have owned the building since 1981.

“As is often the case with these kind of projects, something comes up that will create obstacles, things that weren’t anticipated. We’re not on track for the original January opening [for Simeon’s], my best guess would be March or April,” Dietz said.

See related: Simeon’s victims in crash’s aftermath

The historic (ca. 1872) Griffin Block building, which housed Simeon’s on the first floor, was heavily damaged when a car transporter lost control coming down East State Street and careened into the southeastern corner of the building on June 20, 2014, killing Simeon’s bartender Amanda Bush and injuring seven others.

The severity of the crash was such that an emergency partial demolition had to be undertaken on the front facade of the nearly 150 year-old building, which housed an art gallery and barber shop in the basement, and apartments on the upper floors.

Once structural integrity was assured and the grief began to fade, the Shen family began to consider the possibility of reconstruction. Working with the proprietors of Simeon’s and local architect Jason K. Demarest, a plan faithful to the original building was drawn up. Apart from a re-positioning of the front entrance from the center of the building to the left side, all other exterior details have been designed to match what was lost when the original building was destroyed.

The interior, however, will be thoroughly modernized and reworked. An elevator will be retrofitted into the existing building near where Simeon’s former Aurora Street entrance, and a sprinkler system will be installed throughout the building. Simeon’s will not only occupy the first floor in the new building, the restaurant will have a 40-seat dining area on part of the second floor as well.

Five luxury apartments, a mix of one and two-bedroom units, will also be built on the second and third floors. The Shens did consider applying for historic building restoration federal tax credits, but given the application complications posed by the interior renovations, and the slow process by which the credits are approved, they decided it wasn’t in their best interest.

“The apartments will be ready by the fall of next year,” said Dietz. “Simeon’s will open before the rest of the building is finished.”

Since the official announcement was made (and construction permits were granted) back in July, shiny new structural steel re-establishes the entryway and first floor, with scaffolding on the street-facing side. Although it’s hard to tell from the outside, extensive interior reconstruction is ongoing on the basement level, and starting to happen on the first floor.

Steel erection will provide a very visible sign of progress over the next couple of months, followed by interior and exterior metal stud wall framing, sheathing and windows, utility rough-ins on the inside, and facade work and first-floor interior finishing as the restaurant approaches its re-opening.

McPherson Builders of Ithaca is the general contractor for the rebuild. Simeon’s will use their own contractor for the build-out of their new restaurant space.

[do_widget id= text-61 ]

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.