Over the decades, an art enclave has evolved on the outskirts of downtown San Jose. Dubbed Martha Gardens, the little neighborhood is loosely bounded by Highway 280 and Third, Fifth and Keyes streets.

Adjacent to the Spartan Keyes neighborhood, which includes Kelley Park and Spartan Stadium, Martha Gardens is a mix of residential and light-industrial development, with a few old cannery buildings and aging warehouses mixed in. It began attracting artists back in 1975, when San Jose Sate University established its Art Foundry on South Fifth Street. Not long afterward, SJSU’s art students found there were spaces available in the old Citadel Cannery Building and American Can Company and transformed them into artists studios.

Over the years, some artists have stayed on with successful careers anchored in these Martha Gardens spaces. For much of that time, there were no official live/work or loftlike spaces, but rather the artists would put together makeshift living spaces in their art studios. That’s been changing in recent years, as the neighborhood is undergoing a revitalization.

Completed in 2006, the Brickyard, at 1060 S. Third St., is distinguished by its trademark all-brick facade, and houses 176 condominiums—one and two-bedroom units with spacious floor plans and 10-foot ceilings. All of the units are pre-wired with CAT-5 Internet and come with central air and heat, in-unit washers and dryers and kitchens featuring granite slab counter tops and stainless steel appliances. There’s a pool and a big spa; a barbecue area with a gas grill; a fitness center, billiards room and secured underground parking. There are eight listings in the Brickyard right now, priced between $138,000 and $230,000, with one-bedroom/one-bath and two-bedroom/two-bath floor plans available.

Nearby, at 125 Patterson St., is the Works, a condo featuring 74 flats and loft-style units with one- and two-bedroom floor plans ranging from 894 to 1,400 square feet. The kitchens are nicely appointed with Shaker-style cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances. There are currently five units, priced from $274,888 to $364,500.

The Art Ark in Martha Gardens is an affordable housing development completed in 2007 and comprised of two distinct “neighborhoods” joined by a performance plaza and art gallery. There is what’s known as the Factory Building, which faces a row of industrial fabricators and services and features small artist live-work lofts opening onto landscaped courts with space for residents to work in or display sculptural pieces. Then there are the Cottages, nested studios designed in the style of bungalows, with private porches. These have a homier, less industrial feel.

There are 148 units in all, with 133 studios and 15 two-bedrooms. Amenities include a fitness center and a computer room with a kitchen and a sun deck that opens to an outdoor amphitheater facing a neighborhood park. The coolest feature is undoubtedly the on-site art gallery and an in-house artist-in-residence who teaches art classes and coordinates gallery shows. Studios are 450–550 square feet and monthly rents range $558–$903. Two bedrooms are 750–1,110 square feet with monthly rents $700–$1,145. The wait list is currently open.
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