Nowhere else in the region—and rare in the U.S.—is there a facility that so artfully exposes the inner workings of an industrial plant while providing an experience that is truly unmatched in its vitality and energy. Spokane’s Steam Plant is both historic and contemporary; a visual icon that typically results in a one-word reaction from visitors: “Wow.”
The Steam Plant has been in its current mixed-use state since 2000, the result of a remarkable vision to repurpose one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. In 2001, it was the first historic building in Spokane to receive the prestigious National Preservation Honor Award. Sixteen years later, a new renovation is honoring those efforts while revealing even more of the building’s soul.
As owner Avista Development continues to invest in one of the city’s crown jewels, the focus remains on paying homage to the Steam Plant’s important role in Spokane’s past while creating a unique destination experience for locals and visitors alike.
Industrial Roots with a Contemporary Twist
This latest renovation is possible only by virtue of the Herculean effort by Wells & Company, a Spokane design-build firm, who, starting in 1996, transformed a dirty, drab industrial behemoth into a cathedral-bright architectural showcase. Building on their work, the new space not only preserves the integrity of the original Steam Plant, which began operations in 1916, but also celebrates that history more than ever before. Incorporating materials that hark back to the early 20th century—but with a contemporary twist—patrons will be able to both connect with the building’s industrial roots and experience a new level of comfort.
The interiors, designed by Spokane firm HDG Architecture, create a bold ambience that begins with an oversized steel door welcoming guests into the restaurant from the Central Steam Plant lobby. New flooring combines hexagonal tile and accented wood in the seating and lounging areas; complementary wood is featured on the ceilings above.
The main-level restaurant, now called Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery, is an open design overlooking the new bar area. It features comfortable, tufted seating in the built-in booths next to steel-cladded walls. The bar offers a mixture of large community tables, semi-private and private booth seating.
For visual interest, large murals showcase the plant’s historic roots, while patterns of steam pipe lines snake through the ceiling, providing a creative way to hang lighting that washes beams and columns. The plant’s boilers are brought into the forefront with a fresh coat of paint and a splash of color.
“What I’m most excited about,” says John Lockhart, Steam Plant general manager, “is not only the amazing space this renovation has created, but also the energy of our staff. They come to work every day ready to deliver hospitality in a way Spokane hasn’t seen before. They’re genuinely committed to earning that ‘Wow’ reaction from every one of our guests.” John, who joined the Steam Plant team in July, has more than 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, primarily in the Chicago and Seattle markets. He’s operated restaurants in the Spokane area for the last 10 years.
Along with the physical transformation—brought to completion by Vandervert Construction, Associated Construction, and Synergy Restaurant Consultants—the Steam Plant brand was reimagined by Spokane creative firm Helveticka.
Bold Flavors, Regional Favorites
The enlarged kitchen includes a wood-fired pizza oven, rotisserie, char-broiler and smoker. The menu has been completely recreated with a focus on handcrafted, authentic foods. Specialties include house-smoked salmon carbonara, a rotisserie porchetta sandwich and a “wood-kissed Caesar” with grilled romaine, along with generous-pour signature cocktails and a regional wine list.
“The attraction for me,” says Executive Chef Steve Leonard, “is to create fresh, authentic foods that live up to this majestic space; to use bold flavors to enhance regional favorites.” Chef Steve, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, comes to the Steam Plant from Illinois, where he served as executive chef at several restaurants in the Chicago area—including Levy Restaurants at Wrigley Field.
Meanwhile, the brewery has continued to create craft brews throughout the summer for distribution and keg sales. In addition to a variety of permanent taps and inventive seasonals in the new space, they offer barrel-aged limited release brews. And a new rooftop Event Space, on the third level of the Seehorn building right off Lincoln Street, will be ready to book events in December. The space can accommodate up to 150 people, includes a bridal suite and a patio, and offers a unique view of the plant’s smokestacks and the Spokane skyline. The Kitchen + Brewery is slated to open in early January 2018.
Steam Plant Kitchen + Brewery
Downtown Spokane 159 S. Lincoln St.