ITHACA, NY – The sheathing is on. Fire-rated Gypsum boards produced by National Gypsum shape the rough openings for the windows, which are covered in plastic sheeting enclosing the interior while work on the new restaurant on the first and part of the second floor, and five new apartments on other part of the second and the third floor. In the original portion of the building, the chute and slide are a sign of major interior renovations.

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Seeing the new bay window structures reminds me of an often-overlooked fact. The original Griffin Block building did not have bay windows when it was built in 1871/72. The copper-clad bay windows were installed as part of a 1904 renovation.

Keep an eye out for a late spring opening for Simeon’s (perhaps in time for the very lucrative graduation weekends), and the apartments are expected to be ready for rental by the end of the summer. Important if subtle detail, the reconstruction of the Griffin Block, often called the Simeon’s Building, and Simeon’s reconstruction itself, are two distinct projects occurring at the same time.

The owners of Simeon’s, Richard Avery and Dean Zervos, have applied for a sales tax exemption on building materials and furnishings worth $27,079 by the county IDA’s estimate. Their specific renovation is estimated to cost $660,000, retains 27 jobs when Simeon’s reopens, and provides for 14 new jobs over 3 years.

Local architect Jason K. Demarest is in charge of design for both projects, and Ithaca-based McPherson Builders is the general contractor of the Griffin Block rebuild. Fahs Construction Group of Binghamton is the contractor for Simeon’s restaurant renovation.

Hsueh-Yung and Hsueh-Lang Shen received a $1.3 million building loan from Ithaca’s Tompkins Trust Company to pay for the renovation and reconstruction. The Shens inherited the building from their parents Shan-Fu and Ming-Ming Shen, a Cornell engineering professor and his music-teaching wife who bought the building in 1981, and passed away in 2007 and 2011 respectively.

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Brian Crandall

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