NEWBURYPORT – The co-founder of a global design and licensing company of athletic footwear has submitted a proposal to take over a vacant city building at 115 Water St.

Tom McGee, CEO of Klone Lab, said he wants to turn the empty brick structure into offices for his growing company.

Initially, about 20 employees would work in the building in design and marketing of athletic footwear. No manufacturing would be done there, McGee said.

"I approached the mayor many months ago and have submitted a very complete plan," said McGee, a Newburyport resident whose offices are in Amesbury.

"We are a private company and would supply tax revenue and local spending for the length of the lease."

City officials are reviewing three proposals to refurbish the crumbling building, which was once a Sewer Department office. The building also has four garage bays.

The office space encompasses about 3,800 square feet, while the four bays account for about 1,360 square feet. The garage area now is used for municipal storage and the former offices are empty. City officials have said they want to maintain the four bays.

One of the three proposals is from the American Yacht Club, which abuts the site. The club would use the building primarily for storage, according to Tony Furnari, director of the Department of Public Services.

Another proposal is by developer David Hall, president of Hall and Moskow, who created The Tannery and is among the largest owners of commercial real estate in the city.

He has proposed a boathouse, offices, winter parking and space for the Merrohawke Nature School.

McGee said Wednesday he has been talking with Hall about uses for the building. Hall said they have not come to an agreement.

McGee said his plan would bring the city about $3 million in tax revenue over a 30-year lease. He estimated that his employees and visitors would generate about $500,000 each year in spending.

McGee is a co-founder with Matt Palma, also a Newburyport resident, who is chief operating officer.

Klone Lab is a company that designs athletic footwear for major clients, including New Balance. It does about $40 million annually in sales, McGee said.

The company started in 2009 and signed a licensing agreement with New Balance early in its operations to design, manufacture and distribute all open-toe footwear, such as sandals. Additionally, New Balance awarded Klone Lab licenses for New Balance golf footwear and open-toe footwear for Warrior Lacrosse.

In 2011, the company made its first acquisition when it bought the Ipath brand from Timberland. Ipath is a leading footwear seller in skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing.

Much of the company's work involves marketing, and the name Klone Lab refers to a company mantra, "We understand your brand's DNA."

McGee said the company would look forward to hiring interns and improving the area between the building and the river.

"We want to be part of activity on the Rail Trail and other outdoor activities," he said.

McGee, a native of Portland, Oregon, got his start in athletic gear soon after he finished at the University of San Diego, where he played football.

He worked for Nike for several years, and then took a position with Adidas, also in Portland.

McGee, 50, was recruited by Converse in North Andover about 13 years ago, and he and his wife settled In Newburyport.

He and others created this new company, which in addition to serving clients, has developed its own line of sandals and casual footwear called Revitalign.

"Our family loves Newburyport, and I think a sports-friendly company near the river would be an asset to the community," McGee said.

A team, including Mayor Donna Holaday, Furnari and Planning Director Andy Port, will make the decision.

 "It is the full team, Holaday said Wednesday, "that makes a consensus decision and at this juncture, we are interested in further discussion with David Hall and Tom McGee about trying to find a model that works for both proposals. 

"Andy Port has taken some well-deserved time off so it will probably be a couple of weeks before a final decision is made."

 Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport. He can be reached at 978-961-3149 or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.

 

 

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