Company that remodels old motor lodges wants to give Boise’s Safari Inn second chance

There once was a time when classic roadside motels dotted the American West. Flashing neon signs would let drivers know if there was a vacancy. Rooms were sparse, but the rates were low.

Now, those motels feel a bit out of date, relics from the past. But one Bozeman, Montana, company called Nest Partners has begun renovating old motor lodges into something with “a new vibe.” Boise’s old Safari Motor Inn, built in 1966, will be the latest to get this treatment.

Nest Partners plan to “modernize” the former Safari Motor Inn.
Nest Partners plan to “modernize” the former Safari Motor Inn.

The Safari Motor Inn, at 1070 W. Grove St., will be turned into a hotel called The Sparrow, Nest says. The company will remodel The Safari’s 61 existing rooms and add six more.

Nest Partner’s Development Director Erik Nelson said he looks for buildings with “the best bones.” Nest Partners make light renovations to the exterior of the old motor lodges and then completely remodels the interior.

Nelson said he is most excited about the building’s location at the corner of Grove and 11th streets. Nelson sees it as one of the last undeveloped blocks of downtown.

“To say that it’s is in the right spot is a huge understatement,” Nelson said. “It’s such a cool spot. And we see tremendous opportunity to kind of recycle and upcycle what’s there and create a new vibe for that at corner.”

He wants to turn the parking lot and outdoor pool area into a “mini plaza” with public space, a food truck and local beverage operator offering coffee, beer and wine.

“Right now, there’s this really oppressive parking format all the way around on the ground level,” Nelson said. “...There’s a bunch of parking everywhere you look and a walled-off pool that’s super sad. And so what we’re going to do is kind of create at the corner of a 11th and Grove a really engaged community spot.”

The interior will have a “modern, clean” feel with hand-made items and eye-catching wall graphics. The wall art will be inspired by Boise itself, such as the the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic or The World Center for Birds of Prey, according to Nelson.

The Sparrow may not be the only development popping up in that part of town. One block away, Hendricks Commercial Properties has proposed the Renegade Hotel on The Owyhee property and the Saratoga Apartments across the street at Grove and 12th.

Nest Partners was hired by Boise’s Oppenheimer Development Corp., which owns the company. The two companies have a personal connection. Nest Partners’ management company, Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality, was founded and owned by John Oppenheimer, who is brother to Oppenheimer Development co-owners Doug and Skip Oppenheimer. The three companies are working together to bring about The Sparrow.

Nest Partners has done three similar motor lodge renovations: The Lark in Bozeman, The Wren in Missoula, Montana, and The Finch in Walla Walla, Washington.

“Each hotel harnesses the authentic qualities of each of these local towns, and The Sparrow will do the same,” the companies said in a joint news release. “The hotel will be infused with all things Boise from its design to the art in each room.”

The Safari Motor Inn was built in 1966 as an extension of the Safari Inn that was across the alley and connected through a skybridge. After 52 years, the Safari Inn closed in 2019. Seattle-based Revolve Development bought one of the main part of the Safari Inn and converted it into apartments.

The Nest project awaits a city Design Review Committee hearing.

Sally Krutzig covers Treasure Valley growth and development. Have a story suggestion or a question? Email Krutzig at