Plan evolves for former Griffin Club property in South Portland: No condos

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The owner of the former Griffin Club property in Knightville now says condominiums are no longer part of her plan.

Ginger Cote, who bought the property at 60 Ocean St. in June 2017 for $600,000, presented plans in January for a four-story building with a music venue and restaurant called Big Babe’s Tavern on the first floor and five residential condos above, with prices ranging from $525,000-$875,000.

The project, estimated to cost $2.4 million according to a November 2017 application submitted to the city, was approved by the Planning Board in April.

But on Tuesday, Cote said she plans to submit revisions to the board for review at a meeting Sept. 12, and condos will not be part of the project. She declined to discuss details before she files paperwork with the Planning Department.

An Aroostook County native, Cote has lived in South Portland for 15 years. She is a professional musician who has toured for 40 years with artists including Bonnie Raitt, Cidny Bullens and Emmylou Harris. She plays guitar and piano, but her main instrument is percussion; she said there is a need for a music scene in the city and additional support for the arts.

Cote demolished the 5,800-square-foot, circa-1900 building in April, with plans to rebuild on the same footprint. Construction was previously expected to begin in mid-May after the building was razed.

But the lot has remained vacant.

In a recent public meeting about redevelopment in Knightville, participants questioned Planning Director Tex Haeuser about the project, with interest focused on when construction would begin and whether changes were expected.

Haeuser told them if there are changes proposed, the project would come back to the Planning Board. 

Under Cote’s existing proposal, the tavern will have a lounge area and 47 seats, and be open for lunch and dinner until midnight.

Eric Flynn, Cote’s business manager and real estate broker, said he planned to meet with Cote Thursday. He said he is aware the project is changing, but could not provide any details.

In a previous interview, Cote said to her, the height of the Griffin Club’s popularity – which would have turned 50 this year – was when founder Eddie Griffin operated the tavern. Griffin, who died in 1993, was a special person, Cote said, and she purchased the building with the hope of carrying on the spirit of the business through music.

She also earlier said she will install a plaque dedicated to Griffin as a tribute and acknowledgment of the building’s history as a boxing club and Irish pub, which in its heyday attracted national sports celebrities along with a local clientele.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

The site of the former Griffin Club, at Ocean and C streets in South Portland, will house Big Babe’s Tavern. The project was approved this spring by the Planning Board, but revisions are expected and the project will be reviewed again in September.

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