The beat goes on

2009-06-01

Only in New York City can you find a former reggae club converted into a veterinary practice in the center of a trendy, bustling art district. West Chelsea Veterinary used modern design and an efficient floorplan to capture a 2009 merit award.

Dr. Michael Farber had a problem. With two years remaining on his practice's lease, he learned that the building owner intended to sell the property for redevelopment, leaving West Chelsea Veterinary without a home. To make matters worse, Dr. Farber had recently remodeled the facility and added an adjoining storefront, increasing the practice's workspace. Not long after settling in for the long run, Dr. Farber was unexpectedly scouring real estate listings.

SEARCHING FOR SPACE

It didn't take long for Dr. Farber to realize he had a tough search on his hands. "The whole idea of moving and finding space in New York City is kind of ominous," Dr. Farber says. "But we didn't really have a choice." The neighborhood he'd chosen, West Chelsea, had evolved from a rundown, dreary area to a thriving art district in just a few years. Properties were in high demand, and landlords now preferred to rent their spaces for use as art galleries and studios rather than busy veterinary clinics.

New York, New York: Finding adequate space in New York City wasn't easy, but Dr. Michael Farber got creative, converting a former reggae club into West Chelsea Veterinary, a 6,500-square-foot facility in a trendy art district. (Photos by Dan Nelken and Julie Robbins)

Luckily for Dr. Farber, help came from a familiar source. One of his clients had a space available just a few blocks from the previous location, and he offered to give Dr. Farber a tour. As a recently defunct reggae club, the space didn't initially jump out at Dr. Farber as a potential clinic. A disco ball hung from the ceiling, a bar sat in the corner, and half-full beer bottles littered the floor. But after touring the space, Dr. Farber was able to look past the rough condition, and he decided to undertake the extensive renovation necessary to convert it into a veterinary clinic. And since the club's late-night revelers had often spilled out into the street at 3 a.m., neighbors were thrilled at the thought of a veterinary clinic moving in. "Once word got out that we were looking, clients begged us to come here," Dr. Farber says.

Stop and smell the flowers: Absent from the practice's front desk are copiers, fax machines, and files. Performing administrative tasks in other areas of the practice allows team members to focus on client service.

A NEW BEGINNING

After a seven-month renovation, the West Chelsea team worked around the clock one weekend to move into the new space. "It was very much a team effort," Dr. Farber says. "They were very motivated and excited." One walk through the new facility shows why team members were so eager to make the move.

Lobby: Ample client seating gives the lobby a spacious feeling rarely experienced in New York City. Waiting clients can peek in at the adoptable cats in the cat condos (left), or browse through products in the retail area, located to the right of the reception desk.

Immediately inside the front door is a six-step staircase flanked by an elevator on the left that leads to the reception area. At the top of the stairs, clients can view a set of cat condos housing adoptable cats. Just inside the reception area, a warm bamboo wall displays the practice's logo and a large reception desk helps team members accommodate clients during busy periods. Framed artwork and wood benches line the halls that lead to four of the exam rooms, and retail shelving lets clients browse products in a separate hallway.

Stairway to heaven: A staircase takes clients from the busy street to the main level of the practice. An elevator makes it possible for all clients to reach the lobby.

FINDING A SOLUTION

The practice's defining feature is actually the result of a structural roadblock. Two immovable support beams run through the center of the space, creating a potential barrier for traffic flow. So Dr. Farber worked with his architectural team to create a "nurses' station," a diamond-shaped set of glass walls that provide a central location for technicians and veterinary assistants to process information while keeping an eye on patients. "The practice revolves around this area," Dr. Farber says. Surrounding the nurses' station are ICU, lab, dental alcove, surgical suite, and prep area.

Floor Plan: West Chelsea Veterinary

While patient care was at the top of Dr. Farber's list, creating a spot where team members could unwind and take time for themselves was also a top priority in this building project. A staff lounge located along one of the building's exterior walls provides a view of the busy street, and a full kitchen gives brown-baggers a break from pricey Manhattan dining. The lounge also includes a flat-screen TV, a DVD player, and a cozy sofa for employees who need to relax.

A look at the numbers: West Chelsea Veterinary

Inside a former dance club, Dr. Farber has gone from reggae to radiography, creating a beautiful, cutting-edge facility that makes it possible for him and his team to give clients and patients the best possible service. But Dr. Farber points to his team as the primary catalyst behind West Chelsea Veterinary's success. "We've incorporated as many of the staff's ideas as we could," he says. "Their hard work has helped our hospital become what it is today."