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‘Cruise ship experience’: Concert venue, revamped restaurant and upgraded pool planned by Boise River at Riverside Hotel


The Sandbar at the Riverside Hotel is popular during warm summer and early fall nights. But soon, the restaurant and bar along the Boise River Greenbelt could see significant changes.

A plan working its way through the approval process in Garden City would remove the small former exercise building that houses the Sandbar’s back-of-house space and instead build a large new two-story indoor restaurant while reconfiguring the site. It would include a large patio space lining the Greenbelt, as well as a rooftop patio on top of the restaurant building.

The project will also revamp the pool area and relocate several hotel support functions underground.

Concerts, pool, turf

The project’s first phase will move the central utility functions from the building along the Greenbelt. Once complete, an old stair tower on the main hotel will be replaced, a new elevator added, and the outdoor wedding venue will get a new permanent shelter feature.

Then, the more public-facing phases will start.

Rendering of the Sandbar Via Cushing Terrell

“The Sandbar Restaurant will provide adequate indoor and outdoor dining and drinking experiences,” Bryan Hallowell with Cushing Terrell wrote in an application letter to the City of Garden City. “The main level will have floor-to-ceiling glass and with operable openings to allow the indoor activities to combine with exterior activities along the outdoor ground-level patio. The Sandbar will continue to have the same stage as is currently used and where it is currently located along the East entrance to the courtyard.”

The pool area will also be reworked with a new pool patio and “varied and enlarged bodies of water.”

The application says the current wedding area, with its new permanent translucent roof, will also serve as an outdoor concert venue known as River’s Edge Terrace.

New landscaping will also be put in, with synthetic turf and more.

“The site’s existing turf grass is largely replaced with native and adapted planter beds and resort-quality synthetic turf,” Hallowell wrote. “This landscape treatment is proposed for several reasons that will increase the landscape performance of the Riverside Hotel. The design rationale includes reducing the landscape’s consumptive water demand, supporting native/adapted plant communities.”

Hallowell’s letter said the change would help boost “climate resiliency and heat tolerance” and reduce the risk of fertilizer runoff into the river.

‘Cruise ship’ concept

The Riverside Hotel dates to 1970. The property underwent several name changes and rebrandings until the current ownership group bought it in 2011 and began a long series of upgrades to the aging facility. The Riverside has been the largest hotel in Ada County by number of rooms since it opened in 1970 – more than 52 years.

Rendering of new wedding and concert venue Via Cushing Terrell

“Ultimately, our long-term goal for The Riverside is a ‘resort’ concept. Similar to a cruise ship experience, there are multiple recreation and entertainment venues on campus and nearby,” Johnson Brothers Hospitality Managing Partner David Johnson said. “In addition to The Riverside’s own music venues (The Sapphire Room, Bar365, and the Sandbar), we have vibrant businesses all around us: restaurants, craft
breweries, wineries, music venues, and artists. To improve access, we are working with Garden
City planners to make our 15-acre footprint very walkable and bikeable for our guests and the

As BoiseDev reported earlier this year, a new indoor pool area has been built on the Chinden Blvd. side of the hotel. The building opened on October 1st and includes laundry and fitness facilities, which used to sit along the Greenbelt.

A separate project would link the Riverside with the former Joe’s Crab Shack location next door, building a bridge across a small creek. The Crab Shack is being revamped for Ling & Louie’s.

Overall site rendering Via Cushing Terrell
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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