All odds on boarding


As a senior in veterinary school, Dr. Glenn Park worked on a class project with an architecture student to create the hospital of his dreams. Eleven years later, Dr. Park made his project a reality. And his 10,000-square-foot Courtyard Animal Hospital won a merit award in Veterinary Economics' 2001 Hospital Design Competition.

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By Carolyn Chapman, Special assignments editor

As a senior in veterinary school, Dr. Glenn Park worked on a class project with an architecture student to create the hospital of his dreams. Eleven years later, Dr. Park made his project a reality. And his 10,000-square-foot Courtyard Animal Hospital won a merit award in Veterinary Economics' 2001 Hospital Design Competition.

"The hospital's exterior is eye-catching, and it's well-suited to Las Vegas," said one competition judge. "The high ceiling and windows bring much needed light and an open feel to the kennels below," said another.

Overcoming obstacles

After working as an associate in several Las Vegas hospitals, Dr. Park realized he needed to be his own boss to achieve the success he desired. Interestingly, he began his project where most people end-with the design. "Before I could approach a bank for a loan, I needed a realistic estimate of what my hospital would cost to build," says the 1989 Louisiana State graduate. "So I designed the facility some time before I found the right site for my hospital."

He saved money by hiring local architect, Doug Purvis, of Purvis Architects, who cut his veterinary design teeth on the project. Designing a building without knowing where it would sit proved one of Purvis' greatest challenges. "A site typically narrows the scope of the project," he says. "In the end, I created a plan that would fit on most lots."

Dr. Park stipulated two major design criteria: a warm, efficient floor plan and an innovative boarding area. "I don't like dumping my dogs at a typical kennel," he says. "So I wanted to offer clients an upscale facility where dogs could play in the fresh air." Knowing outdoor runs would contend with the city's tough zoning laws, he asked his architect to design the hospital around a courtyard, so the walls would help block noise and the dogs could run free.

With his hospital floor plan sketched out, Dr. Park obtained a rough bid. Next, he turned to a client, who worked as a vice president at a local bank, to help him draft a workable business plan. Once he had tentative loan approval from his client's institution and the Nevada Development Corporation, Dr. Park hired two real-estate representatives to scout the area for land.

Unfortunately, his first-choice site came with obstacles. Dr. Parks spent a year jumping through the necessary zoning hoops only to abandon the site when a group of neighbors protested his extensive boarding plans. "They had all the time in the world to fight me, so I gave up on that property," says Dr. Park. "The most frustrating part was that I'd wasted so much time on this site when I was in a hurry to build the new practice."

In comparison, the next site landed in his lap. His architect's developer friend mentioned a sizable plot in North Las Vegas, five miles from his current workplace-and the site fit his design perfectly.

Although North Las Vegas had stricter zoning requirements than Las Vegas, only one city councilman voiced concern over barking dogs. "It sounded really silly, considering we practically abut the North Las Vegas airport," Dr. Park says. Agreeing to boost insulation allayed all fears, and construction proceeded.

Focusing on color

From the moment clients pull into the parking lot, the facility announces its special focus on grooming and boarding with separate entrances to the practice and the pet resort, although the elevated entry and exterior columns of the main entrance clearly work as the focal point for the hospital.

When clients step inside the practice they find the warm reception area Dr. Park envisioned from the beginning, with separate entries, counters, and lobbies for dogs and cats. And color is key to setting the tone for the practice.

The self-coving seamless vinyl in the reception area introduces the color palette for client-centered areas of the practice, including beige, mauve, and teal. Complementary design details, such as purple tiles lining the cat waiting area, continue the theme.

Behind the reception desk, the three exam rooms and the pharmacy/lab boast mauve doors, cabinets, flooring, and countertops. A fourth room functions as a bereavement room and overflow exam room.

In the treatment area, Dr. Park uses a brighter, cheerier color scheme for the working areas of the practice with a rainbow of colored light-fixtures that dangles from the 16-foot-high ceiling. And he uses color to differentiate work areas off treatment with green in the surgery area and blue in prep.

Big into boarding

Of course, the attention to detail extends in spades to the specialty boarding facility. At the end of the workday hospital members can shut off the pet resort from the main hospital to allow extended pick-up hours for boarders. And the facility offers clients six unique luxury suites visible from the separate reception area in the boarding facility.

Designed with an eye for canine comfort, the six "doggie hotel rooms" feature colorful murals, toddler beds, piped-in music, and occasional Disney movies, and the rooms sport windows in the fronts and backs so clients can see the outdoor runs and exercise courtyard through the suites. "Our suites are filled practically every night," says Dr. Park. "I would build more in a heartbeat." Forty additional runs open onto an enclosed courtyard and include glass-block windows.

The pet spa also caters to clients' feline friends by offering spacious cat condos with a view to the courtyard so furry boarders can lounge in the sun and watch their canine counterparts romp outside. When boarded cats need exercise, they stretch their legs in a cat-friendly play area, featuring a climbing tree and an aquarium.

Keeping clients' boarded pets happy is paying off with a busy boarding team and plentiful word-of-mouth referrals. So, down the road Dr. Park expects that he'll use the space he set aside to build more boarding suites.

Dr. Park says he's happier than he's ever been in practice. In fact, business is so good that he recently took on a partner, Dr. Kimberly Daffner, a 1991 Colorado State graduate. For others planning to build a hospital, he suggests tapping your client base for the expertise you need. And he says you need to plan for delays. "Anytime you take on a big project-and a new debt load-you're going to feel stressed," he says. "But I encourage you to take the leap. It was definitely worth it for me."

Chapman, a former Veterinary Economics associate editor, is a freelance writer in Liberty, Mo.

September 2001 Veterinary Economics

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