Article and photos by Seth Roffman

 

Santo Domingo Pueblo is situated about halfway between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the same land tribal members have called home for thousands of years. The 5,200-member pueblo is now in the process of transforming itself into a 21st-century Rural Transit-Oriented Development (RTOD) that will celebrate the tribe’s heritage and artistic culture.

In May, after four years of planning and a Kewa prayer, the Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority broke ground on a 41-unit affordable-rental housing complex and a 3,000-square-foot community center with daycare, a computer lab, a playground, a basketball court and a large multipurpose space for social events. The complex is situated across from the newly rebuilt Santo Domingo Trading Post (a tribal arts incubator) and a New Mexico Rail Runner stop.

The Housing Authority also participated in the design of the Heritage Arts Trail, a 1.5-mile walking and biking path that will connect the housing complex to the central portion of the pueblo and provide six nodes where Pueblo artists can showcase their traditional and contemporary artwork. Running parallel to the Rail Runner route, the trail will be a critical artery of transportation in a place where car ownership is often expensive for community members. It is also intended to raise passersby’s awareness of the pueblo’s distinctive artistic culture.

Both the village and the Heritage Art Trail bring well-thought-out urban planning to Indian Country. The master plan leverages creative place making, high-density housing and public transit to remake the community into a functional RTOD. The development is designed to mesh with the surrounding landscape.      

The project has brought together innovative federal and state financing along with a comprehensive, affordable housing development and design process. Many groups helped make the project possible. They include the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, New Mexico State University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Mortgage Finance Authority, Native Capital Access and Cornerstone Community Partnerships.

Santo Domingo Pueblo is one of the more traditional pueblos and does not operate a casino. Some tribal members operate their own businesses. “Santo Domingo artisans value their independence through their entrepreneurship,” said Cynthia Aguilar, a librarian and member of the Housing Authority.