Plans for former Griffin Club to go before South Portland board

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Redevelopment plans for the former Griffin Club in Knightville will be presented to the Planning Board Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Owner Ginger Cote bought the landmark tavern building at 60 Ocean St. in June for $600,000, and will present her preliminary plans, which include a music venue and restaurant called Big Babe’s Tavern with residential condos above. 

Cote last week said her plan remains to demolish the 5,800-square-foot, circa-1900 building and rebuild on its existing footprint. According to the Nov. 28 application submitted to the board, the project is estimated to cost $2.4 million, and, if approved, construction would begin in the spring. A tentative completion date is listed as fall 2018.  

Mark Mueller Associates of Portland is listed as the designer of the project. 

The new building at the corner of Ocean and C streets will be four stories, and include five condominiums on the upper floors, Cote said. She said the first floor will house Big Babe’s, a nod to her nickname.

Cote, an Aroostook County native, 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. Cote 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 said to her, the heyday of the Griffin Club 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 said there will be a plaque dedicated to Griffin as a tribute and acknowledgement of the building’s history.

Because 18 parking spaces will be needed for the project and only nine are available on the property, South Portland Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser on Tuesday said Cote may seek to use a provision in zoning standards that allows counting on-street parking within 500 feet of the project.

An associated parking area is listed as part of the application in the description of plans for the site. 

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

Neighborhood parking has been a source of contention in Knightville, which 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.

Business owners opposed the reduction in Ocean Street parking, while some residents have complained about parking and traffic problems on side streets.

Reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext., 106 or at or via twitter @juliettelaaka

Ginger Cote on the steps of the former Griffin Club at 60 Ocean St. in South Portland. She purchased the building last June and plans to redevelop the property as a restaurant and music venue with residential condos. The Planning Board will review her preliminary plans Jan. 9.

A depiction of a four-story building containing Big Babe’s Tavern and residential condos that would replace the former Griffin Club at 60 Ocean St. in South Portland’s Knightville neighborhood.