Rural Housing Project Invites Locals to “Come Home to Green River”

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Photo Courtesy of Epicenter

Epicenter Press Release

Green River, Utah — On May 25, the City of Green River and local non-profit organization Epicenter will break ground on an innovative affordable housing development, Canal Commons, in Green River, Utah. This groundbreaking also marks the formal kick-off of Epicenter’s Come Home to Green River initiative, which combines downtown revitalization and economic investment efforts with arts and design activities.

The new Canal Commons development is a direct response to Green River’s urgent need for accessible and affordable rental units, and a lack of starter homes for those seeking homeownership. Canal Commons will be a 10-unit neighborhood with a public park along the historic canal being developed by Epicenter, and will be built using funds from the State of Utah’s Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines in partnership with Zions Bank, Emery County – Community Reinvestment Agency, and Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation.

These much-needed homes focus on high quality design, affordability, energy efficiency, and accessibility. This project also revitalizes an adjacent park, now known as Pearl Baker Park, with natural playscapes, outdoor classrooms, and shaded picnic areas among a tall grove of cottonwood trees.

“This development, though small in scale, is immense in context to Green River and rural Utah. In a town of under 500 households, this is a landmark effort to increase the livability and vibrancy of Green River,” says Epicenter Executive Director Maria Sykes. “It would be like the equivalent of a 1000-unit development in downtown Salt Lake City.”

Statewide housing advocates, such as Utah Housing Coalition Executive Director Tara Rollins, say rural housing investment is essential to “attract jobs and keep people in their community.”

The project team sees this development as an investment in Green River’s families that confronts a blockade that has limited economic opportunity and stability in Green River. It will be the largest effort toward increasing affordable housing options the town has had in decades, stimulating upward economic growth by ensuring fulfillment of residents’ basic needs. The City of Green River is invested as a partner in this project; donating the 4-acre plot of land for the development, securing infrastructure funding for the site, and committing to seeing this project through to success.

Many of Green River’s recent high school graduates move away due to lack of available housing or conversely to pursue education and careers outside of Green River and are then unable to return due to a lack of steady careers and quality housing. The lack of housing also limits in-migration from prospective residents to fill critical community roles such as teacher, EMT, and other unfilled public safety positions. Local leaders believe Canal Commons models the type of proactive development that would allow former Green River residents to return home, where they can work and further
invest in their hometown. For those looking to come home to Green River, they now may have a place to come home to.

“The opportunity to own a home and build something for oneself is tantamount to the American Dream. Rural communities often lack this opportunity, and it has been mentioned in City Council meetings and rural development conferences that our chief export usually is our community’s children,” says Ren Hatt, Mayor of Green River. “Epicenter’s Canal Commons project is essential to bring affordable and stable housing to Green River, helping foster belonging and involvement in the community.”

Epicenter has also awarded Come Home to Green River fellowships to lead specific activities through 2024-2025 in Green River with a focus on Canal Commons and the adjacent Pearl Baker Park and Outdoor Classroom. These activities include creative programming, community events, and public
installations that activate and beautify the town for both the local community and visitors alike. The Come Home to Green River initiative is made possible Epicenter’s receipt of a highly-competitive Our Town grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, support from the Utah Office of Tourism, and private individual donations.

Canal Commons wouldn’t be possible without direct funding from the State of Utah’s Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines in partnership with Zions Bank, Emery County – Community Reinvestment Agency, and Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation. Pre-development and community engagement efforts were made possible by Enterprise Community Partners, American Express National Bank, Rocky Mountain Community Reinvestment Corporation, ASSIST Inc, AARP, State Farm, National Endowment for the Arts, Union Pacific Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation, UServeUtah, AmeriCorps, and many individual private donors

1 Sean Higgins, “Utah’s rural housing […],” KUER, December 20, 2022, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/12/21/utahs-rural-housing-gets-boost/

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