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Office Space Takes Off at Hamilton Landing

It's been almost 10 years since real estate developers took on the monumental task of rehabilitating the abandoned Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato into a productive mix of housing, parks, retail and office space. In 2001, another piece of this sprawling project opened for business, providing further evidence that Hamilton is a model for military base conversions.

Back in 1999, Barker Pacific Group acquired seven vacant airplane hangars and some adjacent vacant land. The goal: Completely renovate the old hangars from top to bottom, adapting them into the largest Class A office park in Marin County.

Before and during World War II, the Hamilton hangars housed B-17 flying fortresses and other aircraft. At its peak in 1944, more than 20,000 military personnel were housed at the base. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, the base was used for U.S. Army Reserve flight training, and after the Vietnam War, it became a refugee center for thousands of Southeast Asians. Hamilton was decommissioned in 1974.

In mid-2001, the lights were turned on in the first phase of the new Hamilton Landing -- four renovated hangars totaling 225,000 square feet. When fully completed, the $100 million project will double in size.

Barker Pacific's vision for Hamilton Landing called for the hangars to retain their original architectural identity but to modernize and rehab the buildings for modern office use. All the original mechanical and electrical systems installed by the military were replaced with state-of-the-art technology. Because this is Marin County, the systems were also environmentally sound and energy efficient.

Ceiling heights on the upper floors soar to 38 feet, with the space exposed to the industrial open truss design. The hangars-turned-office properties also sport operable windows that look out onto the San Pablo Bay wetlands and the Marin hillsides.

Renovations began in 1999, with the first hangar ready for tenants in April 2000. Home and garden retailer Smith & Hawken was the first tenant to relocate to Hamilton Landing, taking Hangar Four as its corporate headquarters.

Hangars Three, Five and Six were all renovated by the middle of 2001 and are now about 50 percent leased.

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