Moab Happenings Archive
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Community Rebuilds - Arroyo Crossing and Beyond
by Nancy Kurtz

Back towards the end of the aughts, it was all Emily Niehaus could talk about. First it was cobble, and then it was straw bale. It would be energy-efficient, ecological. There would be embellishments. Of course, there would. Emily Niehaus is a dreamer but she’s an extraordinarily gifted dreamer with an uncanny knack for making dreams come true.

Of those days, Community Rebuilds’ executive director Rikki Epperson recalls, there was a feeling of “ground breaking…pun intended!”

Fast forward to June 2023, a journey featuring 12 plus years of steady work breaking ground in Moab and beyond, and the fashioning of a nonprofit that in the wake of 65 home tours has become a local rock star. Niehaus moved on to be elected Mayor of Moab and is now involved in an alternative education project.

The sun is shining, and considering it’s June in the stinking desert, it isn’t too hot to enjoy the tour of eight new homes, each of which displays a Community Rebuilds sign out front. In the small sea of homes already constructed on the 41-acre subdivision known as Arroyo Crossing, it’s easy for the initiate to get lost, but we find our way into the new builds with their owners hanging out inside to field questions.

I turn down the car radio. You can hear the strains, feel the pulse of tuba, drums and saxophone as Moab’s Fiery Furnace marching band weaves from one house to the next.

Arroyo Crossing, ultimately slated for 300 units, is Grand County’s long-awaited housing project made possible by the Moab Area Community Land Trust, who, partnered with Community Rebuilds and the Housing authority of Southeastern Utah, has in the past several years overseen the construction of affordable homesteads for locals.

To the casual observer, these homes seem to have gone up overnight - but according to Epperson, they required a major group effort of sweat and tears. “Epic,” she says,” is the only word to describe the magical synergy that aligned over 250 humans with one shared goal….”

Inside, the feel is light and airy; the insulation is straw bale or recycled newspaper. Each home is subtly different from the next, as the owners are personally involved from the start, choosing their own colors, kitchen and bath layouts, lighting, fixtures and appliances.

They all smell like new construction and are fun to look at, just one reason why a crowd of locals has descended on Arroyo Crossing, eager for glimpses of you and me and everyone we know participating in what many locals perceive as a community-wide effort to house our residents inside their own four walls.

Speaking of walls, the passive solar homes are geared toward energy efficiency and climate-friendly sustainable exterior finishes like lime plaster.

The process is structured so that there is a cap on resale, so the homes remain affordable for future owners, while Community Rebuilds’ costs are held down by the nonprofit’s use of volunteers and interns who work in exchange for learning the tricks of the trade.

In the wake of the Arroyo Crossing debut, Epperson has this to say: “Community Rebuilds learned of the Community Land Trust (CLT) model from our work in Crested Butte, and we knew we needed a CLT to keep our homes affordable in perpetuity. It was 2016 when the topic was first proposed as a Moab Area Housing Task Force agenda item. We are ecstatic to see the recipients settling into their homes after seven years of work from so many dedicated community members.”

The Community Rebuilds campus can be found near Mill Creek in the heart of Moab, 150 S 200 E. 435-260-0501.
Upcoming events: Open houses in December - TBD Check out the Community Rebuilds jobsite for sustainable housing techniques - or the website - - for ways to build a future for self or others.

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