It’s cinematic when the graffiti-covered freight trains roll past the iconic Steam Plant. During an overcast morning, the familiar brick structure with cars cruising through the city on rails with wheels squeaking smacks of “Rocky.” The classic Sylvester Stallone movie capitalized on a rich urban landscape with gritty scenes featuring elevated train lines as the protagonist jogged through the streets of blue-collar Philadelphia.
Jerry Dicker, the veteran developer who recently purchased the Steam Plant, hopes to give Spokane’s downtown a puncher’s chance of attracting reluctant folks to visit the city.
“We’re trying to get people to come in from Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and even the Valley,” Dicker said from his home on the lower South Hill. “It’s amazing how many people from the Valley have never been to the Bing (Crosby Theater), and it’s been in existence since 1916.”
Dicker, 81, owns the Bing. And now he owns the Steam Plant, buying it from Avista Corp. in May for an undisclosed price. He also owns an adjacent office complex and purchased land just north of the railroad tracks to be used for parking for the entertainment district.
“I would like to make the Steam Plant into a really good restaurant,” Dicker said. “We’re not going to be fine dining, but we’ll be about good food and good value. It’ll be a nice place to come before going to the theater. In terms of the menu, we will study the situation and create a point of view.”
The Steam Plant Bar and Grill closed due to COVID-19 restrictions and hasn’t reopened.
“We bought a closed restaurant,” Dicker said. “We will open as a caterer first. We can do good food first, and we don’t have to worry about service yet.”
The owner of GVD Hospitality Management Services Inc. hopes the Steam Plant, which powered downtown from 1916 to 1986, opens in three to four months.
“I’m excited about the restaurant,” Dicker said. “We’ll open as soon as we can. We wanted to partner with Avista, which is a fine Spokane company, but they preferred to sell the property. It’s an iconic property. It has the synergy with the rest of downtown and can anchor the entertainment district.”
The Montvale Hotel, the Montvale Event Center, the Hotel Ruby and Hotel Ruby 2, which will be known as the Steam Plant Hotel, are among other downtown properties Dicker owns.
Why would an octogenarian dive even deeper into downtown?
“I don’t know,” Dicker said while laughing. “It’s like if you write a novel and it becomes successful, you’ll write another novel. You might write novels for the rest of your life. It exercises your brain. That’s what it’s like with what I do.”
Dicker also said he is passionate about downtown and its potential.
“I want to make a difference,” he said. “The entertainment venues get almost no love by the government. It’s kind of irritating since we’re the artistic capital of the Inland Northwest, and that goes all the way to Minneapolis. We’re on our own. We don’t get the help the public facility district does, which is well-funded. The Bing doesn’t get help, and the Knitting Factory doesn’t get help. I’m all for Spokane.”
After spending more than 40 years in California developing large shopping centers and malls, Dicker and his wife Patty moved to Spokane in 2001 for the benefit of their family.
“We came with everyone looking for a mid-sized city that was good for children to grow up in,” Dicker said “We also had some (business) contacts with Spokane that filled our objective. We wanted to move on from the big city, and it worked out well.”
The relocation was primarily for Dicker’s grandchildren Kaitlyn, Sean and Daniel.
The Gonzaga Prep alums enjoyed their salad days in the Lilac City. “We wanted the best for them and did what we could for them,” Dicker said.
The same can be said for Dicker and the downtown entertainment district, which Dicker hopes can reach another echelon.
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