Moab: A resort in progress

The Moab Diner offers simple fare but is always packed with diners who appreciate a good deal and a cold ice cream cone.

The Grand Center is the first building to be completed on the 28-acre medical campus in Moab.

The Center Street Gym has outdoor basketball hoops on the side of the building, a teen center, and is available to anyone in the community.

The new library celebrated its grand opening in June. It offers residents a cool retreat in the heat of the summer.

House like this used to be common in Moab. This one, built in 1881, is the oldest one left, and is on display near the Center Street Gym.

Rim Vista, a townhome development six years in the making, is south of Moab, off Highway 191, on Spanish Valley Drive.

Rim Vista, a townhome development six years in the making, is south of Moab, off Highway 191, on Spanish Valley Drive. (Photos by Penny Stine/Real Estate Weekly)

If you hear the name ‘Moab’ and immediately start singing, ‘Mo-ab, U-tah, adventure at its best,’ you’ll probably agree that Moab has been successful in their attempts to get the word out about its recreational activities. Now both the town and the county are trying to ride the wave of becoming a resort town.

“People are coming from everywhere,” says Meredith Gauthier, with RE/MAX Canyonlands Realty. “We’ve got a shortage (of housing), prices are going up… there’s not a lot of anything for sale.”

Gauthier is currently selling Rim Vista, a townhouse development south of Moab, where buyers are usually buying 2nd homes. Some of them have another vacation home in a ski town, either along the I-70 Corridor or in northern Utah, and have discovered that having a weekend getaway in Moab compliments the ski season, since spring and fall are the ideal seasons for the desert community while summer and winter are delightful in a mountain town. Although some buyers have put the townhomes in the nightly rental pool of vacation homes available in the Moab area, that merely helps offset the cost, it doesn’t totally recoup it.

Other buyers are baby boomers interested in a pre-retirement home, living in it for short periods now but planning an eventual retirement to the community. The two-story units that will be available soon haven’t been priced yet, but Gauthier estimates they will be more than $250,000.

Grand County Council Member Joette Langianese has helped guide the vision for what Moab is becoming. As the community grows, planners like Langianese have tried to anticipate concerns that all resort towns share.

“We want to make sure that our service industry will be provided for,” Langianese says, “Not just hotel and restaurant workers, but administrators, nurses and teachers.”

The overall population of Moab is around 5,000 and has seasonal swings, but has grown at a manageable 3% per year for the last five years. The community wants to be ready should all their 2nd home citizens decide to make Moab their primary residence. Planners also want to make their community attractive enough to attract the necessary workers for their tourist industry, although the available recreation is what attracts and retains most tourism employees.

Thanks to the mineral lease money that comes into county coffers, the Moab Area Partnership for Seniors has been active on behalf of all Grand County residents to plan a 28-acre medical campus. Allen Memorial Hospital owns twelve of those 28 acres, while the Grand Center, a senior center that’s also available as a community rental hall, was completed last August. An assisted living and nursing facility is also planned for the medical campus.

“I saw all these people having to leave town for the last years of their lives,” says Langianese. Although the hospital has 14 beds reserved for long-term care patients, it doesn’t meet the needs of the older citizens in the community. In addition to an assisted living facility, the partnership would also like to see independent-living duplexes on the campus.

Allen Memorial Hospital is still conducting financial feasibility studies for the new hospital. Currently, the hospital has 25 beds, and would like to remain at that number of beds even when the assisted living facility is able to provide long-term care. The new hospital will also have an intensive care unit, which is not available at the existing hospital.

Administrators hope the new facility will attract specialists to their area, and are excited that Moab now has an orthopedic surgeon, “which is just awesome for a rural hospital,” says Capital Campaign Manager Joy Trotter.

In addition to new medical facilities, Moab can also boast about its new library and new city hall. The library is approximately 14,000 square feet and celebrated its Grand Opening on June 3rd, 2006. The community is also planning a new swimming pool, and hopes to build it in 2008 or 2009.

“We’re growing just like Grand Junction,” says Langianese, “just in different ways - in more expensive ways.”

Most people know that it’s not the library or hospital that attracts people to Moab. There are 27 different river rafting outfitters in Moab. Arches National Park is next door, Canyonlands is just 35 miles away, and Moab has a world-class mountain biking reputation. For those who prefer a less strenuous form of outdoor recreation, new sports and activities have emerged such as guided jeep safaris, hummer tours and 4-wheeling.

“People don’t have to rely on their own arms and legs to get them out there,” says Lori Martin, who works for the city of Moab. “We have so many things a person can do, no matter what their physical condition is.”

The Moab Adventure Center is the biggest outfitter in Moab, offering rafting tours, jeep rental, guided hiking trips, bike tours, hummer tours, horseback riding and ATV tours. They average 20,000 people per year on their one-day rafting trips. Although rafting season runs from February 15th through November 1st, Manager Jason Taylor admits that most of their rafting business takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

“We don’t have many people here in the winter,” Taylor says, “But we’re here for them.”

Moab may be adventure at its best for visitors, but county planners like Langianese are trying to make it an inviting place to live for both the year-round and seasonal residents.


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