2010 People's Choice winner: No flexibility? No problem!
Strict city regulations left Drs. John Abella and Craig Zelles with few options for their remodeling project. So they got creative and turned Aloha Animal Hospital into a tropical paradise-without major floor plan modifications.
The garage was the biggest problem. When Dr. John Abella bought
Aloha Animal Hospital
in Vista, Calif., in 2000, he knew the three-car garage could be put to better use. Built in 1968, the garage was once a necessity for employees who stayed overnight, but as time passed, it became more of a burden for the growing practice.
So Dr. Abella and his partner, Dr. Craig Zelles, set out to remodel the practice and update the floor plan. Their hard work eventually paid off, as Aloha Animal Hospital was voted the 2010 People's Choice Award winner. But what seemed like a simple expansion turned out to be a much tougher project than the doctors had initially imagined.
First, they weren't allowed to increase the square footage of the building due to zoning restrictions. The city allowed them to tear down the garage and remodel the space, but adding any space was out of the question. The doctors even inquired about building on top of the garage, but city officials quickly shot down that plan too. “Half the project was knowing what my restrictions were,” Dr. Abella says.
Because reception space was limited, Drs. Abella and Zelles decided to take advantage of the beautiful Southern California weather and create an outdoor waiting area. Just before the team began building a retaining wall, the city knocked out a neighboring curb to redirect storm water-right onto the Aloha Animal Hospital property. The doctors put in an open pit drain to deal with the flow. They were then informed that, due to a natural habitat behind the facility, they would need a hydrology study. The costs continued to mount. “It was just amazing-one thing after another,” Dr. Abella says.
Most of the major remodeling happened in the back part of the building, where the team tore out the garage and rebuilt it as the cat ward, business office, and ultrasound room. The remaining layout was tweaked but remained largely the same, and all materials were updated, giving the practice a consistent look.
The practice's signature design touch is a tropical theme, complete with a customized reception desk mural painted by local artist Steve Barton, whose tropical paintings are known throughout the country. “We didn't want it to be cheesy tropical, where we're walking around in shorts, but we wanted a fun, relaxing environment” Dr. Abella says. “It makes clients feel at ease, considering some of the serious issues they have to deal with.”
Some clients might have trouble relaxing-they're too busy gawking at the practice's new digs. “They walk in and say, ‘Wow, what happened? This is amazing,'” Dr. Abella says. Even non-clients stop by to check out the new facility. And team members love the practice's improved traffic flow. “It's been a pleasing experience,” he says.
View all the 2010 entries below.