Epicenter recently hosted their first ever housing open house at their headquarters in Green River. Over the past ten years Epicenter has developed a single family housing prototype (The Frontier House) and made over 50 home repairs through their award winning critical home repair program (Fix It First) as well as assessed the entire housing stock of Green River and co-created an award winning housing plan with the City. This recent open house marks the next phase of Epicenter’s housing development to be co-designed and created alongside the community of Green River.
The housing open house was simultaneously an information session and a community-driven design charrette. Epicenter shared a timeline of housing work since 2009, Epicenter’s new mission statement and long term goals, and a recent housing assessment update. The design portion included asking residents about their current housing situation (ie. “What do you love about your current house?”) and asking them to help Epicenter begin designing new housing for Green River residents (ie. “What housing typology would you prefer: duplex, row house, townhome, or apartment?”). Epicenter staff mingled with attendees throughout the event and had great conversations on the possibilities of mixed-use development (and what that looks like in a rural setting), their favorite houses in town (and why), and much more. There were even activities for the kids who attended, and these exercises were not just ways to keep kids entertained; the kids to drew their dream homes (no rules!) and staff members asked the kids about what they drew and why. Free food, games, and music were also critical the event’s success. Twenty-nine residents were in attendance throughout the event including town leaders Mayor Travis Bacon, City Council members Kim Andrus and Kathy Ryan, and City Manager Conae Black.
In the days after the open house, Epicenter’s Community Coordinator Annalee Howland took the open house on the road for those who were unable to attend (mostly due to work obligations). She visited local businesses, focusing mostly on back-of-house workers, to go over the open house items and questions. Twenty-three local residents, with a focus on those currently living in mobile homes, were surveyed after the event asking the same questions.
The event was also an opportunity for residents to meet Epicenter’s newest staff member, Lindsey Briceno, a licensed architect and Enterprise Architectural Rose Fellow. Back in 2017, Epicenter was selected to host a two-year (January 2019 – December 2020) Rose Fellow by Enterprise Community Partners, a national non-profit that improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable. During her time in rural Utah, Briceno will focus on developing housing solutions for rural Utahns with a focus on Green River residents.
The next step for Epicenter include assessing the data, conversations, and information graciously provided by local residents to form an action plan for creating new affordable housing units in Green River, hopefully a product that can be replicated throughout the rural West. Epicenter is also forming a local housing advisory committee to dive deep into co-designing housing with Epicenter.