Swapping space

Swapping space

Jul 01, 2007
By dvm360.com staff

The clinic Maggie Marcantonio had purchase in 1998 was old and the team needed more space. Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital sat on a large piece of land, so expansion seemed natural. But despite the practice's long history in the area, Marcantonio ran right into a "not in my backyard" mentality with residents nearby. "People hear the word expansion and they tend to worry," says Jacqueline Luurtsema, practice manager.

So Marcantonio began scouting locations for new construction. Then luck struck. While searching for alternative locations in Ann Arbor, Mich., Marcantonio learned that the local Red Cross wanted to move out of its 40-year-old building. The facility was in disrepair—and there wasn't enough room for the organization to expand. Soon the idea for a land swap between Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital and the Red Cross developed. The veterinary hospital would swap its large piece of land for the Red Cross' plot, which was closer to town and in a terrific location for a veterinary facility.

Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital
The Red Cross built first while the team at Washtenaw stayed in its old facility. The new hospital was ready 15 months later, and the old building was demolished and made into the Red Cross' parking lot. The whole swap worked out pretty smoothly, Luurtsema says. And, on the really up side, the hospital walked away with a merit award in Veterinary Economics' 2007 Hospital Design Competition.

If you're thinking of undertaking a land swap, Luurtsema says it pays to know your city's rules and regulations—and be sure you can get the proper zoning. Careful planning, she says, is the most important part of the process. And while land swaps aren't common, it never hurts to keep an ear to the ground for potential deals.

Hands-on design

Hospital owner Maggie Marcantonio always wanted to work with pets in a way that supported and enhanced the human-animal bond. Owning a veterinary clinic provided the platform for that. But she leaves the medical decisions—and left most of the design decisions—up to the veterinary team. Her philosophy was that everyone at the practice should have input on the new design. "She told us, 'Here are the ideas out there. Now get everyone's input, because you all have a different view depending on where you work in the building,'" Luurtsema says.

One example of the team's hands-on approach: The practice's associate veterinarians visited other veterinary hospitals to get ideas and looked at floor plans, picking and choosing what they liked from each. Workflow was critical for the doctors and they took the time to be sure the design and flow would fit their needs.

Reception and waiting area: To ensure clients' and pets' comfort, the space features a separate entrance and exit and a waiting area large enough to allow for some separation between pets. The chandelier and fireplace complete the rustic look.
And their hard work and research paid off. The doctors have been thrilled with the flow of the facility. Luurtsema says she asked them if they could change one thing, what it would be. "It was hard for them to think of anything," she says.