Owner has big plans for Big Babe’s in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND —  The owner of the former Griffin Club in Knightville on Wednesday said she expects to present a redevelopment plan to the Planning Board in January.

“I want to do right by the neighborhood and have been working with other businesses in the neighborhood,” Ginger Cote said. “Hopefully, we get started in February.”

Cote, working then with Penny Prior, bought the landmark tavern at 60 Ocean St. in June.

“Our plans aren’t firm yet, but we know food and music will be part of whatever we do,” Cote said at that time.

Almost six months later, Cote said she is moving ahead on her own, and plans have taken shape to tear down the 5,800-square-foot building constructed in 1900 and rebuild on its footprint.

The new building at the corner of Ocean and C streets will be four stories, and have five condominiums on the upper floors, Cote said. One will be hers.

A new restaurant and tavern called Big Babe’s will open on the first floor, with live music, local-beef burgers and comfort food, Cote said.

“You can come down here and it won’t break the bank,” she promised. A drummer by trade, Cote also said she would like to play at Big Babe’s, time permitting.

City Planning Director Tex Haeuser said Wednesday that Prior and Cote have already met with city officials to discuss preliminary plans.

Parking will be a key issue, he said.

Haeuser’s notes indicate 18 parking spaces will be needed, with nine available on the property. At this point, spaces on Ocean and C streets are not being counted.

The remainder could be accounted for by amending city regulations to include public parking spaces within 1,500 feet of the business. The amendment is now being discussed by city officials, since spaces on private lots within 1,500 feet of a business can now be considered in site planning.

At 1,500 feet, public parking on Waterman Drive could be added to the parking equation for Big Babe’s.

“I would like to see the policy changed to 1,500 feet to spread it out so one street is not jam-packed,” Cote said.

She added there is plenty of parking in Knightville, but the current 500-foot distance used to count available public spaces creates congestion and anxiety for neighbors.

Haeuser said the amendment would benefit the entire city, although Knightville parking is a catalyst for considering the changes.

Neighborhood parking has been a source of contention as Knightville has experienced a renaissance in the last decade. The one-block stretch of Ocean Street between E and D streets has gone from two-way to one-way and back to two-way traffic, with angled parking spots replaced by fewer parallel spaces.

Residents have also complained about the abundance of parked vehicles on residential side streets.

Cote said she would encourage all her customers to use any available lot parking rather than the street.

She also said age and time have caught up with the Griffin Club building, which will be torn down. Her plans call for rebuilding on its foundation.

“(The purchase was) a sound business decision,” she said. “(But) the building was so dilapidated, it is not savable.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Redevelopment plans for the former Griffin Club at 60 Ocean St. in South Portland could go before the Planning Board in January.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.