Canal Commons is a new parkside neighborhood along the historic canal in Green River, Utah being developed by Epicenter Properties, LLC. These much-needed homes have been sized for local development team capacity with a focus on high quality design, affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility. This project also features the old town park restored as Pearl Baker Park, with natural playscapes, outdoor classrooms, and shaded picnic areas among a tall grove of cottonwood trees.
Located along Interstate 70 in Emery County, the rural community of Green River has experienced different booms and busts as a result of the railroad, uranium and coal mining, agriculture, and a military missile base. Each of these industries has either declined dramatically or departed the region altogether, leaving behind a community with a fraction of the population it once had. But for a lucky 847 people Green River, Utah is home.
This project is a direct response to both the community’s urgent need for accessible, affordable rental units and a lack of starter homes for those seeking homeownership; Canal Commons, sized specifically for local contractor and local development team capacity, focuses on high quality design, affordability, and accessibility. Energy efficiency and durability of materials are a key part of design; reducing monthly utility bills and maintenance costs makes a significant difference in the limited finances of low- and moderate- income (“LMI”) families and individuals in order to better ensure personal financial stability.
The housing type selected for Canal Commons is both market selected as well as inspired by the historic, vernacular housing in town. With every historic economic boom in Green River, affordable worker housing was typically built as minimal single-family detached houses. When surveyed in 2019, potential tenants and home-owners valued outdoor space and privacy. The single-family detached housing typology will also integrate well into its surroundings by mirroring the adjacent housing, as all affordable housing should.
These houses have between two and three bedrooms. In response to both the busy street and railroad tracks located to the south, each house faces inward towards a shared green space. Each street entrance is designed as a service or informal entrance while the inward-facing entrance is designed to be a welcoming front porch.
Q: Who can live here?
A: We aim to help anyone in need of decent affordable housing in town. We’re still working on how to make sure those in greatest need get a house, but in the meantime let us know if you might be interested!
Q: Just how tough is the housing situation in Green River?
A: According to Green River’s 2014 Housing Plan (James Wood, Kem Gardner Policy Institute):
The average age of a house in town is 56 years old.
46% of the housing stock is in need of major repairs.
14% of homes sit vacant and in need of rehabilitation or demolishment.
One-third of the population lives in mobile homes which make up 14% of the homes in town (compared to a 6% national average).
69% of mobile homes in town were manufactured prior to the 1976 adoption of the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, making them no longer suitable for occupancy.
12% of the housing stock is rental units; only eight units are considered affordable.
None of the apartment units in town are ADA accessible or appropriate for those able to age-in-place.
Due to supply chain issues and labor shortages caused by the global pandemic, construction of the Canal Commons housing is temporarily on hold.
Water and sewer infrastructure was installed on the site in 2020. In 2021 and 2022, Epicenter shifted to what else could be done in these times: using local labor and materials to restore the old town park as Pearl Baker Park.
Stay tuned to this page for updates or follow @ruralandproud on Instagram. You can also sign up below to get more information and receive updates!
In 2020, Epicenter officially secured all commitments of funding needed to proceed with Phase I of the project: constructing five affordable rental homes. A total of $1,224,000 has been committed by multiple sources, including the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, Rocky Mountain Community Reinvestment Corporation, Community Impact Board Fund (CIB), City of Green River (land donation), private foundation grants, and individual private donors.
This project would not have been possible without support from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Community Impact Board Fund (CIB), Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), AARP, State Farm, Union Pacific Foundation, David, Sherrie & Shaleane Gee family, Wells Fargo Foundation, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation, American Express, UServeUtah, Colorado River & Trails Expeditions (CRATE), Utah Division of Arts & Museums, National Endowment for the Arts, WESTAF, Utah Humanities, Sorenson Legacy Foundation, The Corporation for National and Community Service (“AmeriCorps”), and many individual private donors.
Despite the established financial support for the project, this is still a major undertaking for our small non-profit organization. Donations (both in-kind and cash) reduce cash flow strain and ensure the project moves forward as smoothly as possible. Click the link below to make a donation.
Epicenter, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is the sole member of Epicenter Properties, LLC., the owner/operator of Canal Commons.
Epicenter stewards creative initiatives that honor the past, strengthen the present, and build the future that we envision with our community. Located in Green River, Utah, Epicenter is a vibrant hub for rural investment and cultural exploration of the high desert of southeastern Utah. Beyond our region, Epicenter advocates for rural communities and contributes to the dialogue on contemporary place-based work in the United States. Epicenter is a 501(c)(3) public charity nonprofit organization.