20 Aug 2014
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Hamilton Residents Make a Pitch for Lucasfilm Studio Project

Community and leasing agents think movie magic can be made at Hamilton Hangars.

Hamilton Residents Make a Pitch for Lucasfilm Studio Project Hamilton Residents Make a Pitch for Lucasfilm Studio Project

A grassroots effort to bring Lucas Valley's project to the Hangars at Hamilton Landing is being led by resident Marla Fields, who said it may be a longshot but she wants to roll out the red carpet for the film company.

The Lucasfilm withdrawal from the Grady Ranch has created a near feeding frenzy of Bay Area cities including Dixon, Vallejo's Mare Island, Fairfield, Lagoon Valley in Solano County, Oakland and San Francisco all vying for the economic boost and star power of the project.

Hangars & Residential Set for Production

As recently as December 2010, a Disney animation company, had made its home in two of the former airplane hangars at Hamilton Landing. Originally a military base, Hamilton was built in the 1930s and converted to a mixed-use residential and commercial community in Novato in the late '90s.

The hangars were purchased and transformed into modern office space by Barker Pacific Group and current tenants include the , Birkenstock, the and gaming company Take Two Interactive.

In a pitch for support to residents via the Hamilton Community Forum egroup,  Fields, who has been lobbying city officials to address vacant and blighted city-owned properties at Hamilton, said she sees a potential remedy with a Lucasfilm project.

We have a production studio recently occupied by ImageMovers Digital, an old theater that would make a wonderful screening room, city-owned vacant parcels that could be developed if more space is needed, wonderful views of the largest wetlands restoration in the country, hiking and biking trails as well as the Bay Trail, an upcoming Hamilton train station for easy access, a newly renovated gorgeous pool and soon a new gymnasium, and most importantly, a community of residents who I am confident would roll out the red carpet and welcome Mr. Lucas to our neighborhood.

Fields urged supporters to send letters to the Novato City CouncilMarin County’s Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Judy Arnold.

Hamilton Well-Known to George Lucas

Filmmaker George Lucas is no stranger to the hangars at the former Hamilton Field Air Force Base. Scenes for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were shot on location at the hangars

The historic hangars and Spanish-revival buildings have also served as backdrop for other feature films including, The Right Stuff, Red Tails and Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

Lucas would be welcome to work his movie magic at Hamilton, said Brian Eisberg, a senior vice president with Cornish & Carey Commercial, the hangars leasing agency. He suggests that emails be directed to the Novato City Council and City Manager Michael Frank.

Eisberg said the company will be following up a written submission with requests for a meeting with Skywalker Properties and is looking for community support. There was a rumor that a meeting with Lucasfilm team had already been arranged for this week but Eisberg said that a meeting had not yet been scheduled.

In an email Eisberg said:

In addition to a multimillion dollar contribution from the owners of these hangars, the Walt Disney Company spent nearly $40 million of their own money creating a state of the art movie making facility in these Hangars, including the iconic Control Tower.  There is no other way to describe the space other than phenomenal. Hamilton Landing has won several green awards for reduced energy costs and employee comfort due to their advanced engineering. 

Square Footage Matches; Environment Differs

Hayden Ongaro, vice-president and managing director for Cornish & Carey, points to 240,000-square-feet of available space that includes two hangars, a build-to-suit office building and existing space in the remaining five partially-occupied hangars.

Although the Grady Ranch project was planned for a nearly comparable 269,000-square-foot digital studio, that site would have been built from scratch over a two year timeframe with Spanish mission-style buildings, two 85-foot towers, nine bridges, and a large buffer of space to shield the campus from public view, according to the precise development plan presented to the county's planning commission.

According to the Skywalker Properties website, the all-inclusive community would have held a general store, gym, day care and cafe to support an estimated 340 employees, actors and guests.

Nearly 450 employees worked at ImageMovers Digital at Hamilton but in contrast, the hangars are highly visible and located in the midst of a mixed-use community that developer Peter Palmisano tagged with the slogan, "Live, Work, Play, Belong" when the military base was converted in early '90s.

It's a far cry from the pastoral, isolated campus that was planned for Grady Ranch.

Ongaro said he was in contact with a Lucasfilm representative on April 23 and said, "There unfortunately is no interest in Hamilton at this time."

But that's not keeping Ongaro from pulling out all the stops.  He said that the existing hangar site is nearly move-in ready, allowing actual film production to start almost immediately.

"The community amenities available to Lucas’ employees are very rich and impressive in their own right offering a unique live/work community," Ongaro said in an email.  

"We hope that LucasFilm will at least inspect and give serious consideration to this opportunity," he added.

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