San Jose art studio lands a permanent home near Google campus
Select service hotel rendering

After months of bouncing around from different spaces in downtown San Jose, community art studio Local Color, formerly known as the Exhibition District, has partnered with a top investment firm to secure a permanent fixture — for free.

The partnership between Local Color and the investment firm, Urban Catalyst, provides the nonprofit with 10,000 square feet of free artist space in the firm’s newly-acquired property on West San Carlos Street near the Diridon Station, merely a couple hundred yards from the proposed Google campus and SAP Center. The move to offer the art studio a rent-free space is one of Urban Catalyst’s many strategies in reinvigorating the downtown area with local talent, as it focuses on “being a positive catalyst in the community.”

“We are so thankful for the opportunity to expand and launch this program next to San Jose’s transit hub,” said Local Color Executive Director Erin Salazar. “Working with landlords like Urban Catalyst is a key part of our business model, activating our built environment and providing workspace for our artists.”

Artist Alex Hernandez prepares a screen print for client in his makeshift studio, which used to be a loading area for Ross Dress for Less. Photo by Mauricio La Plante.

The site, called Local Color Keystone, will host the nonprofit’s art studio on the building’s ground floor, while the rest of the building will operate as a luxury business hotel with 170 rooms, offering high-level services, amenities and onsite parking.

“Transit-oriented development, like this hotel, allows us to be part of building a vibrant, livable and sustainable community,” said Urban Catalyst founder Erik Hayden.

“Through these property purchases, we are making bold moves to revitalize the area by filling the demand for downtown hotels offering walkability and easy access to mass transit,” added Urban Catalyst partner Josh Burroughs.

Urban Catalyst deems itself as the leading “opportunity zone funds” in Silicon Valley, partnering with local developers, nonprofits and businesses to transform old, blighted neighborhoods into up-and-coming areas. The firm has bought five properties it plans on transforming into mixed-use, housing and retail developments in the downtown core.

“We are so excited to be partnering with Local Color on this project, and we hope it will establish a broader artist presence in the Diridon Station area for our local entrepreneurs,” Burroughs said. “Erin and her team are phenomenal to work with and such an asset to our city.”

The woman-owned nonprofit Local Color originally started as a pop up nearly three years ago, when Salazar had an idea to provide an affordable, creative workspace to beginning artists in a city that’s increasingly become more expensive. Currently, Local Color charges artists who qualify about $300 a month to rent a 225 square foot space and $150 for part-time artists who use the space for up to 15 hours per month. Artists can also pay $50 to $100 a month to work in a co-working, drop in studio.

As rental prices have soared and a surge of development has consumed the city’s downtown, the nonprofit found itself scrambling to stay afloat. Before securing the newly-acquired location, Local Color faced several challenges maintaining a workspace in downtown. This will be the second time the nonprofit has to move, the first being after its original space was demolished to make way for a towering 22-story high rise with 374 units of new housing.

But now, the partnership with Urban Catalyst that includes free rent gives the nonprofit a chance to “expand their footprint,” as they continue to “offer much-needed space to emerging artists in downtown San Jose,” officials said.

Since the property’s acquisition in July, Urban Catalyst has been focusing on reaching its fundraising goal of $250 million for the new development.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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