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Birkenstock plans move from northern Novato to Hamilton Landing

Birkenstock Distribution USA, the Marin-based shoe company, is moving from its distinctive headquarters in northern Novato to Hamilton Landing in southern Novato.

The company, which has been based in Marin since 1971, has signed a lease for 15,000 square feet in a renovated airport hangar, said Michael Barker of Barker Pacific Group, the developer of Hamilton Landing.

The shoe company signed with Hamilton because it has more space than it needs at its current site, a 157,000-square-foot, 92-acre campus near Mount Burdell.

Over the past 18 months, the company has been streamlining its operations, outsourcing its shipping and receiving operations to Kentucky and laying off about 50 workers over that period.

Gene Kunde, the company's chief executive, said most of Birkenstock's retail customers are on the East Coast, so it was inefficient to have the shoes shipped from manufacturing headquarters in Germany all the way to California before being distributed to East Coast destinations.

The company still has 67 employees in Marin, and they will start moving to Hamilton Landing on Feb. 9.

"We've got more space than we need at our existing facility," Kunde said. "It's costing us a lot more money than we really need to spend."

The lease term is five years. Terms were not disclosed, but space in Hamilton Landing rents for about $250 per square foot.

No new tenant has been found for the northern Novato building, noteworthy for its pointed white roof. The building was occupied by the McGraw-Hill publishing company until Birkenstock moved in 15 years ago.

Birkenstock, based in Germany, has been making shoes since 1774. Birkenstock USA was founded in 1966 by Margot Fraser of Santa Cruz, who admired the shoes and asked to import and sell them from her home.

Fraser, who now lives in Terra Linda, moved the company to San Rafael in 1971. In 1982, the company moved to a 31,000-square-foot space in Bel Marin Keys. The McGraw-Hill campus became available in 1992.

The Birkenstock deal is the latest coup for Hamilton Landing, which has leased 111,000 square feet of space in the past few months, said Michael Barker of the Barker Pacific Group, Hamilton Landing's developer.

"Birkenstock is a mainstay in the community," Barker said. "It speaks to the image of Hamilton."

Ninety-six percent of the renovated space at the former military base is now occupied. Other companies that have leased space there recently include Oracle, Sony ImageWorks and Take Two Interactive.


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