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Disney’s ImageMovers Digital latest for unique Hamilton Landing redevelopment

Built literally rock-solid – instead of as temporary metal Quonset huts that typified other bygone era airfield installations – the thick, concrete-walled hangars at the old site of the Hamilton Air Force Base were ideal candidates for renovation.

A cluster of pre-WWII hangars (Nos. 3 through 10), originally built in 1938 on 22 acres, has been completely remodeled and pressed back into service. This project comprises 461,000 square feet of two-story Class A commercial office space owned by the Barker Pacific Group and Prudential Real Estate Investors.

The latest addition to the Hamilton Landing complex is ImageMovers Digital, which joined forces with Walt Disney Studios in July of 2007 and is currently developing an animated version of “A Christmas Carol” for distribution in December 2009.

IMD is the largest tenant and is scheduled to occupy its two hangars this month. The IMD lease was one of the largest leases in Marin County in 2008. From the beginning, the developer saw the complex as a place it could deploy energy-saving and other features that would appeal to firms such as IMD.

“We seized the chance to recycle and embellish these very sound and sturdy buildings turning them into a classic reclamation model compatible with the creative space preferences of firms” like IMD, said Michael Barker, president of the Barker Pacific Group.

In 1998, the development group closed on the acquisition of seven hangars that were abandoned in 1974.

“We saw an opportunity to upgrade these historic structures by converting them into a modern commercial campus environment with a legacy unlike any in the country,” Mr. Barker said.

“With open, tall ceilings there was ample space to maximize natural light access and also room to add a mezzanine deck. Ceiling heights range from a minimum of 11 feet to a maximum of 38 feet, providing a dramatic volume of space within an industrial open- truss design. Both ends of each hangar had massive doors that were replaced with equally large glass curtain walls.”

Smith & Hawken was the first tenant to occupy the campus, leasing the entire first floor of hangar three.

Birkenstock USA, along with Visual Concepts/2K Games, Oracle USA, ClairMail and Sony Pictures Imageworks have also joined a growing list of almost 40 Hamilton Landing commercial tenants.

Architects and designers started with a clean slate by gutting these hangars to the bare bones to reveal their basic strengths and then refurbished them with state-of-the-art upgrades.

This project has already received a number of awards for energy efficiency, such as the 2003 Energy Efficient Building Award for best office project by Energy News Magazine.

This award recognizes innovations in building management and energy efficiency – in either retrofits or new construction throughout North America – that provide unique building solutions and also achieve significant energy and cost savings.

Hamilton Landing has also won the Marin Economic Commission’s 2002 award for Smart Growth.

Outside the hangars, the extensive runways and taxi ramps became parking areas and a central promenade that extends through a campus that also includes a cafe with an al fresco dining area, a public library, a dry cleaner and a YMCA.

Each hangar has four internal columns, or towers, that proved to be convenient and viable locations for housing HVAC systems. Hangar roofs are corrugated steel trusses supported by vertical concrete walls 28 to 30 feet in height. Roof contours were designed in a traditional hangar oval shape and covered by corrugated steel. Interiors utilize up-lighting techniques where ambient light is bounced off the ceiling. As an historic legacy touch, exterior awnings were designed to resemble airplane wings.

While the Coast Guard has retained hangars one and two, still in their original state, the Barker Pacific Group plans to begin construction next year on a new, 55,000 square- foot office building in the center of the complex that will be surrounded by the existing hangars. This new structure will be different but with a complementary design.

“What impresses visitors and tenants the most about this office campus are the amazing views of San Pablo Bay wetlands and the Marin Headlands from the second floor. The Hamilton Landing commercial business park is a perfect blend of old and new and a splendid example of how even large structures can be recycled. Over the years the Barker Pacific Group has restored a number of historical buildings. Each one is unique. We honor and work with what is there and adapt it to meet present-day needs,” said Mr. Barker.