Basin Street moving headquarters to Reno

Basin Street Properties, the Petaluma-based development firm that transformed downtown and helped establish the city as a telecom hub, is relocating its headquarters to Reno, officials said Tuesday.

The move will give the company better growth potential and the chance to diversify its holdings throughout the western United States, President Matt White said.

About 20 employees will remain to oversee Sonoma County properties, while the company?s finance, accounting, leasing and marketing departments will go, starting Aug. 17, White said.

?It?s been an incredibly difficult decision. We love Petaluma,? said White, whose father Bill White founded the company in 1974. ?But I have to separate the emotional attachment with the basic realities of running a business.?

Elected officials said they were disappointed but not surprised.

White moved his family to the Lake Tahoe area about four years ago and he has been commuting to the area by plane, Petaluma City Councilman Mike Healy said.

Although the firm was successful in developing the $100 million Theater District and luring high-tech companies, it has been frustrated in more recent efforts, Healy said.

Plans for redevelopment of its Golden Eagle shopping center on the Petaluma River proved unworkable, and its Riverfront mixed-use project was stymied, Healy said.

?This has been in works for a long time,? said Healy. ?I hope they remain engaged. They are still a major player in town.?

White said local politics played no role in the decision. But he said he was wary of the fiscal morass in Sacramento and the lack of predictability for small business in the state.

He had no reservations about investing in Nevada, which the Kaiser Family Foundation rated Tuesday as the most distressed economy in the nation.

?What Nevada defines as dire and California defines as dire are two different things,? White said. ?Nevada is in a much better situation than California.?

Basin Street?s move comes four years after it sold most of its Sonoma County office buildings to Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust for $263 million ? the largest commercial real estate acquisition in county history.

Among the properties sold in 2005 was Petaluma?s Redwood Business Park, which housed many of the startup companies that fueled the region?s entry into the telecommunications industry in the 1980s and 90s.

At the time of the sale, the firm was in the midst of a major overhaul of the riverfront south of downtown Petaluma, bringing in restaurants, offices, storefront apartments and a movie theater.

?It?s been a huge success and a huge plus,? Healy said. ?It helped revitalize downtown.?

The company also was looking elsewhere. It bought two downtown Reno bank buildings in 2005 and 2006 and has since amassed Nevada assets totalling about $125 million, White said.

The company jumped into the Sacramento market in 2007 and later formed a hospitality division aimed at developing hotels.

It built a Hampton Inn & Suites in Windsor and another one in Suisun City in Solano County.

Now, White said the firm is eyeing Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Northern California and Utah for future projects.

Its new Reno headquarters will have 25 employees. The firm?s Sacramento office has a staff of five.

Overall, Basin Street, which is privately held, has $550 million in real estate assets, with about 60 percent in the Bay Area, White said.

?Reno is a business-friendly climate and great hub with a fair cost of living compared to the North Bay,? White said. ?I think it?s a great place to position ourselves for the next 35 years.?