Her perfect plan

Her perfect plan

Nov 01, 2009

On the waterfront: The beautiful landscaping that clients love, including a pond, was already there in this planned community when Rivertown Animal Hospital was built. (Photos by Brian Droege, Brian Droege Photography)
Dr. Ginger Garlie chose the location for Rivertown Animal Hospital in what seemed like the perfect setting: next to a glittering pond, a gelato shop, and a handful of other neighborhood businesses in a planned community full of perfect clients. And today, everything runs smoothly. A big well-lit treatment room facilitates back-room traffic. A welcoming lobby with warm colors, an inspirational quote, and a beautiful heirloom quilt greets clients. A comfort room eases the grief of mourning pet owners and provides a quiet place for acupuncture and special exams.

The building process was unquestionably "rewarding and fun," Dr. Garlie says, but also challenging. Here's why.


Before Dr. Garlie began her new hospital in the planned community of Liberty Village, she convinced residents they wouldn't mind her clinic moving into a spot previously zoned for restaurant use. A lengthy approval process meant presenting plans to preservation and planning committees before a thumbs-up from the city council. Her architect helped convince private residents that the hospital would fit the area's architectural style.


The hospital and its other amenities—like the warm, inviting comfort room (above), and well-lit waiting area with spacious ceilings—had to be built. "Our location in such a unique housing development was a good choice," Dr. Ginger Garlie says.
By this time, it was winter—and cold season in Stillwater, Minn., is no joke. That's why Dr. Garlie had planned to start building in early summer. By the time she and her team broke ground, they had to deal with weather-related difficulties. First, rain soaked the soil in a particularly wet fall before builders could lay the concrete. So the construction crew framed the building first. With that done, Dr. Garlie could finally visit the site to watch her dream hospital being built—in the frigid chill of winter. In fact, the builders had to bring an auxiliary gas heater to keep the crew warm enough to work in below-freezing temperatures. "I thought it was odd that the heat was on and the windows were open," she says. "Then I remembered there were no windows yet."

Dr. Garlie estimates that winter construction added $100,000 to the cost, but her no-down-payment loan from a bank meant she had ready cash. "A friend of mine told me that in almost every project you'll do, you'll wish you had that extra money," she says.

Before winter's cold had passed in February, the building was done.