Spokane Journal of Business

Bing Crosby Theater building in Spokane to be sold

Bing Crosby Theater could fetch $1 million to $3 million, owner says

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Bing Crosby Theater building in Spokane to be sold
-—Staff photo by Chey Scott
The 97-year-old theater building, located at 901 W. Sprague in downtown Spokane, currently has an assessed value of $807,000, county records show.

Mitch Silver, a Spokane businessman who owns the Bing Crosby Theater building in downtown Spokane, says he's planning to put that historic property up for sale this spring.

Silver says he decided to sell the 756-seat theater, located at 901 W. Sprague, because he feels that the building "needs an infusion of new energy" from a new owner. Some needed maintenance and repairs to the structure also are more than he wants to take on at this point, he adds.

"I wasn't looking for a job when I bought it; I thought it would run itself, and I think it's time for someone new to get into it," Silver says. "It deserves more energy than I am able to put into it."

He bought the theater building in 2004 when it was auctioned off after its former owner, the Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co., filed for bankruptcy protection. Information on file with the Spokane County Assessor's office shows that he bought it then for $788,000. Its current assessed value is $807,000.

Silver estimates the building now could sell for between $1 million and $3 million.

He says he's not sure if he'll list the property or auction it off, but says both are possibilities.

"Putting it on the market nationally will need to happen, but with the line of work I'm in it could be auctioned," says Silver, who also owns Spokane-based Silver Collector Car Auctions Inc., located at 2020 N. Monroe.

Silver says he'd recently been in negotiations with a potential buyer of the property who'd approached him with an offer, but that the proposal fell through.

When Silver bought the theater, it was called The Metropolitan Theater of Performing Arts and referred to as The Met. It had undergone a complete renovation after Metropolitan purchased it in the mid-1980s.

Work that needs to be done to the building includes repairs to its periodically leaking roof, which Silver says he has attended to, and to the sidewalk around the structure.

"Some things are small; some are bigger and are ongoing maintenance," he says. "You can live with semi-fixes or you can write a bigger check and fix it the way it ought to be fixed, and a new owner could do that."

Silver says in the past there'd been talk of getting a public group together to purchase the Bing Crosby Theater and donate it to the city of Spokane, but those efforts never advanced.

He says that because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Spokane Register of Historic Places, a new owner couldn't make many changes to it other than preserving its existing condition. He says the theater also would have to retain its current name under new ownership.

Silver, who's operated Silver Auctions since 1979, says that business remains his main focus, but that he hopes to spend more time traveling in the coming years.

The Bing Crosby Theater was built in 1915 by early Spokane businessman and philanthropist August Paulsen, who significantly invested his wealth into the city. The movie theater first was named the Clemmer Theater and its namesake, Howard Clemmer, managed and operated it in a partnership with Paulsen.

Paulsen and Clemmer sold the theater in 1925, and in an attempt to attract more patrons, its new manager hired live acts to perform in between movie showings. One of those performers was Harry "Bing" Crosby, the local jazz drummer and singer who evolved into one of the nation's most popular multimedia stars.

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