Frog & Turtle seeks to expand upward

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WESTBROOK — More than a decade after opening the Frog & Turtle Gastro Pub, James Tranchemontagne and his co-owners want to buy the building, build a second floor and expand.

Guy Cote, a partner in Vallee Square Holding, the owner of the restaurant, said the plan is to add an outdoor deck and glassed-in lounge area “so our guests see views of the river.”

“With all the improvements the city has made along the riverfront, I think this will allow us attract (more people) and become a destination,” Cote told the City Council Monday.

Councilors were intrigued and supportive of the plan.

“I know this has been a dream of James’ for a long time. I am looking forward to seeing it come to fruition,” Councilor Mike Foley said.

Several things, however, have to happen before the expansion work can begin. A new waterline has to be extended to the building to service a fire sprinkler system. The restaurant would also need an easement from the city for a separate entrance  to the second floor.

Cote said the easement, which the city would sell to Vallee Square Holding for $1, would also allow for an expanded kitchen and some drainage improvements to eliminate water from pooling behind building tenant Jack’s Thai.

The council gave its preliminary approval for the waterline extension and easement Monday. The city would pick up 70 percent of the $37,125 cost of the waterline (through tax increment financing funding on hand) and Vallee Square Holding would pick up the remaining cost. City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the extended waterline would allow for sprinkler systems to be installed in other commercial businesses in the downtown block.

The expansion plan may also need Planning Board approval based on the extent of the expansion, said City Planner Jennie Francheschi.

“Once we get a final plan, we will determine the level of review that is appropriate for the project,” she said Jan. 10.

In a letter to councilors, Cote said Vallee Square Holding hopes to buy the building from Waves Edge LLC in March. In addition to the restaurant and Jack’s Thai, the building houses Tropical Sun Tanning and Continuum for Creativity.

The project, including acquiring the building and making the expansion, is expected to cost $1.2 million. Tranchmontagne said the group is working with Evergreen Credit Union and the Small Business Administration to secure funding.

Vallee Square Holding will apply for up to $15,000 from the city’s Downtown Facade Improvement Program to finance some of the work.

Construction could begin in late spring/early summer.

Tranchemontagne said the project is just a part of his team’s vision for the building.

 “In the future we hope to take the rest of the build up three to four stories with a mix use to it.  That is a ways out though,” he wrote in an email to the American Journal.
“My vision has always been one of a vibrant downtown, filled with shops and restaurants like the ‘good old days’ of Westbrook. It is a shared vision with the Cotes and we look forward to many great years here in Westbrook and at Vallee Square,” he added.
Tranchemontagne said getting to this point wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Bryant, Mayor Mike Sanphy, Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson and the City Council, who saw the plan as something that would not only benefit the Frog & Turtle but downtown as a whole.

Council President Gary Rairdon and Councilor Ann Peoples thanked Vallee Square Holding for investing in downtown.

“This is a great establishment,” Rairdon said of the restaurant. “It is a destination and this will bring (people) in.”

Adding a second floor would bring the Frog & Turtle building at 3 Vallee Square back to a multi-floor structure. The building was once a two-story building but only one story was rebuilt after a 1942 fire at Vallee Square.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

The ownership group of the Frog and Turtle in Westbrook’s Vallee Square is proposing adding a second floor that would provide views of the Presumpscot River.

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