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Presidio El Camino’s Unique Community Amenity: An Art Gallery

Presidio El Camino's Unique Community Amenity: An Art GalleryPresidio El Camino's Unique Community Amenity: An Art Gallery

Too often “affordable” or “low income” housing also means “utilitarian” housing. Core Companies’ Presidio El Camino demonstrates that doesn’t have to be the case.

Quite the opposite. Presidio boasts an amenity that even Midtown Manhattan’s priciest addresses can’t: its own art gallery featuring original works by contemporary and predominantly local artists.

Each floor has its own themed display in a spacious and inviting lobby, as well as paintings adorning the wide hallways.

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The first floor features water colors by the late Terri Hill, a longtime Santa Clara resident whose award-winning work is distinguished by its intense color and unusual vantage points.

Local Santa Clara landmarks predominate on the second floor; including a specially-commissioned photograph of the St. Claire statue on El Camino by San Luis Obispo-based photographer Ken Brandstetter, known for his painting-like photography style.

The third floor could be called the “Mission Study” floor, because it shows 16 watercolors, all painted by members of the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society in a single plein air session – literally, “in the open air.”

The exhibit is the work of Core Companies’ Darci Palmer, who in 2012 was given the task of acquiring decorative artwork for the building’s public spaces. “I saw the prices of stock art, and I thought, ‘That’s a lot of money, that’s a waste of money,'” she says. “Paul Ring [Core VP of Development] gave me the license to do something special.”

Palmer contacted an artist whose work she first admired at Woodside’s King Mountain Art Fair, Terri Hill, and asked Hill to help her select pieces that would create a uniquely Santa Claran exhibit.

“It has really excited residents’ pride,” says Palmer. “There’s a lot of Santa Clara pride here, and I wanted it [the art] to have a local feel and identity. I care a lot about the places we build being places anyone would want to live.”

Core Companies is a privately held consortium founded by David Neale in 1989 to build both market rate and affordable urban infill housing. Since its founding, Core has garnered many awards for design, historic preservation, and its affordable housing development, which includes the innovative Art Ark apartments, a community of artists.

Santa Clara’s Housing Authority financed the land purchase for Presidio El Camino in 2009 using Redevelopment Agency (RDA) tax revenue. It was one of Santa Clara’s last affordable housing projects before the state legislature shuttered RDAs in 2011, and allowed counties to appropriate their assets as “clawbacks” – justified by RDA property tax diversion. These tax diversions funded over 50 percent of California’s affordable housing investments, according to the non-profit California Housing Partnership.

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