It’s not a chance many students get. A group of University of New Mexico students worked for months, designing what may help shape the future of a real downtown in New Mexico.

“It was a challenge. Going into a small town and trying to develop a project so large,” said Kurtis McCurdy, a senior architecture student at UNM.

McCurdy is one of 10 students part of the Finding Rural Design Program. It’s a six-month-long project that’s about more than just a letter grade. 

“It always feels good being able to build something to help somebody out,” said McCurdy.

The students spent hundreds of hours brainstorming and designing buildings, transportation systems, and tourism activities for the town of Deming.

“They came to us and said we’re really looking at a shipping container brewery space,” said McCurdy.

The students each designed a version of what they think that should look like, and then worked together on broader projects like the hypothetical ‘Taste of Deming’ tour.

“Just a place where people can go and you know enjoy Deming,” said McCurdy.

This project is led by Tim Castillo, the Assistant Dean at UNM’s School of Architecture and Planning.

“We see those communities struggling to understand, you know, where to go in terms of economic development,” said Castillo.

This is the second city UNM is helping redesign. The first was Silver City, where they designed a space for artists.

“They’re really moving forward,” said Castillo.

Deming now has the chance to actually build these students designs, which would likely help move their city forward.

“This is something that I think could really be a part of New Mexico,” said McCurdy.

Students do plan to keep helping New Mexico towns through this program. Next on their list is Socorro.