By JONATHAN SWARTZ
The Ithaca Commons redesign project — which was originally set to be completed in July — will not be finished until next spring, due in part to the fatal crash at Simeon’s Restaurant in June, according to Project Manager Michael Kuo.
Originally scheduled to be finished on July 31, the renovation was subsequently delayed for completion in November. However, project officials no longer expect to meet that deadline either and have further delayed the anticipated completion date to spring 2015, Kuo said.
In the aftermath of the June 20 accident — which severely damaged Simeon’s and claimed the life of bartender Amanda Bush — the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation was unable to replace its gas pipes near the restaurant, resulting in further setbacks, according to Kuo.
Although NYSEG has now completed its work, the setback will not allow for the project’s completion by the end of the season in November, Kuo said.
“As the weather gets cold it will be a challenge to get the finish paving completed from end-to-end, but that is still our goal,” Kuo said. “We are excited to say goodbye to the utilities work and have commenced the surface program on Bank Alley.”
Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said the project team remains hopeful that the surface for the new pedestrian mall can be completed by the holiday season.
“Every effort is being made to ensure that businesses and pedestrians will have a clean, fresh surface in front of their place of business,” he said. “If the weather cooperates and we do not encounter any further surprises, there is a chance this can occur.”
Ferguson also said business owners, landlords, city officials and downtown employees want the project to end as soon as possible.
“Impact on businesses has been mixed. Some merchants continue to post strong growth. Some show flat or stable sales,” he said.
Some store owners say the construction “needed to be done,” even if it has a negative impact on businesses.
“I think the delay to spring 2015 will hurt retail sales, as it has already, and particularly versus the intended excitement of a holiday completion,” said Ian Golden, owner of the Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company. “With that said, I don’t feel as a retailer that there’s much that could have been done. It’s a project that needed to be done, and there’s never a convenient time for it to happen.”