A little over a year after tragic downtown crash, work has started to rebuild Simeon's on the Commons

September 8, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

It's been almost a year and a quarter since the tragic truck collision that took the life of bartender Amanda Bush and shattered Simeon's on the Commons. For most of that time, the building has sat boarded up -- but today, the plans to rebuild have visible signs.

Signs of life as the process of rebuilding Simeon's begins. Photo courtesy Simeon's on the Commons.Signs of life as the process of rebuilding Simeon's begins. Photo courtesy Simeon's on the Commons."The construction has really begun," says Jamie Zervos, wife of restaurant co-owner Dean Zervos. "We have already checked the steel beams for structural integrity," she tells us. Up next are "asbestos testing and starting of the front facade."

Engineers determined early last July, just about two weeks after the accident, that the damage to the iconic Griffin Block building in downtown Ithaca wasn't irreparable. The City of Ithaca's Mike Niechwiadowicz, director of code enforcement in the Department of Planning, Building and Economic Development, told us at the time that the decision to rebuild would be a financial one, to be made by the building's owners and insurance companies.

Engineers who examined the building following the crash were able to determine that most of its structural integrity was still sound. The exception was the south wall, which contained the Simeon's facade and bay windows facing Madeline's Restaurant and the Rothschild Building, and a portion of the east wall facing Viva Taqueria. Much of that corner was "cut back" where there wasn't adequate support, and the area has been boarded over since last summer, with a mural evoking the eatery.

The Griffin Block building that includes Simeon's is owned by Hsueh-Yung and Hsueh-Lang Shen, the children of the late Shan-Fu Shen and Ming-Ming Shen, who had lived in Ithaca for several decades and owned the building. Shan-Fu Shen, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, died in 2007, and his widow, Ming-Ming Shen, a private music teacher who taught violin and piano in the area for many years, died in 2011.

Restaurant owners Dean Zervos and Rich Avery said since last summer that they hope to reopen Simeon's. The pair have owned the business since the fall of 2007, about twenty years after former Ithaca mayor Alan Cohen turned the corner tavern into a restaurant.

In mid August, as the owners and crews began to clear out the restaurant to prepare to rebuild it, Simeon's had a pair of sales, offering old restaurant paraphernalia for sale, including glasses and chalkboards, lighting fixtures and chairs, as well as Simeon's t-shirts.

"We are hoping for a spring opening," says Jamie Zervos.


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