With his purchase of the Bing Crosby Theater in downtown Spokane, businessman Jerry Dicker has solidified his standing as one of the city’s leading historic preservationists.
On Wednesday, Dicker met with supporters of the Bing and said he will “do what needs to be done … to keep the building going.”
Roof and sidewalk repairs are planned soon to stop leaks.
The gathering turned out to be a birthday party of sorts; the theater at 901 W. Sprague Ave. first opened on Feb. 22, 1915.
Bill Stimson, president of the Advocates for the Bing Crosby Theater, said supporters are “so relieved and happy” that Dicker has purchased the Bing and is willing to invest in it.
Before last week’s announcement of the purchase, Dicker was already well known for restoring the former Rodeway Inn at First Avenue and Lincoln Street and turning it into a boutique motel serving the adjacent arts district.
Now known as Hotel Ruby and Sapphire Lounge, the 1950 motor inn has a distinct arts theme with huge portraits of famous musicians on the Lincoln Avenue exterior wall, work that was done by Spokane artist Ric Gendron.
Dicker said the motel business is doing better than expected.
Six years ago, Dicker and his wife, Patty, joined forces with their neighbors to establish the Ninth Avenue National Historic District of four homes.
At the time it was only the second national historic district encompassing a residential area in Spokane.
Their home is one of four houses built in the early 1900s for the Comstock and Shadle families of The Crescent department store fortune. The homes are on the north side of the 1100 block of West Ninth.
The Dickers undertook their own restoration there.
Dicker’s company, GVD Commercial Properties Inc., is majority owner of the former Burgan’s furniture building at 1120 N. Division St. and an adjacent warehouse.
Dicker has been planning to convert the 1918 structure into a hotel with restaurants, which would serve travelers along Division and the adjacent Gonzaga University campus.
Before coming to Spokane about 10 years ago, Dicker made his money in a successful California real estate business but moved here for family reasons. He and his wife wanted to be close to their grandchildren. “We wanted to see them grow up,” he said.
The couple have lived in Spokane full time for about seven years.
He operates his business out of a restored residential building at 28th Avenue and Scott Street that was built in the Art Moderne architectural style and sits prominently on an unusual curved lot.
His purchase of the Bing from former owner Mitch Silver was announced last week.
The theater was originally called the Clemmer but went through a series of name changes, as the Audian, the State and The Met.
It became the Bing in 2006 to recall Crosby’s growing up in Spokane and his live appearances at the theater as part of movie shows in 1925. From there, he went to Hollywood.
The theater is on both the Spokane and national historic registers.
Michael Smith, the Bing’s manager for the past 25 years, said he had dreamed that Dicker would buy the theater after watching the improvements at Hotel Ruby just across First Avenue.
Smith said he has plans for even more shows on top of the 250 already booked for this year, including National Geographic Live, more literary offerings and possibly stage shows.
Tim Behrens, an actor and writer, said that the Dicker purchase “is the best thing that’s happened to this building in years.”