Building a practice in the fast lane

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Dr. Robert Goodman took an old car dealership and turned it into his dream practice.

Dr. Robert Goodman is no stranger to building and conversion projects. He has renovated two historic homes for his family. And he even converted a funeral parlor into an 1,800-square-foot veterinary practice. So when the time came to expand, he had no qualms about converting a 1920s Buick dealership-turned-auto repair shop into a hospital for pets.

Pedal to the metal: Cars whiz by a 1920s Buick dealership-turned-auto repair shop that found new life as Everhart Veterinary Hospital. Keeping the showroom windows intact gives a sleek, industrial look to the facility, which fits among similar-style buildings in the neighborhood.

Many of Dr. Goodman's staff members took their cars to the repair shop, so he knew that the building was coming up for sale. After one visit, he decided the facility would be perfect—with a lot of love and care—for his future upgrade. The building already had the right zoning, wiring, and much of the plumbing he'd need. And with high ceilings, showroom windows, and a location only half a mile from the previous facility, he couldn't go wrong. ?

A look at the numbers: Everhart Veterinary Hospital

No guts, no glory

Gutting a 90-year-old building for use as a modern veterinary clinic brought challenges, and some surprises. For one thing, the original concrete floor was still in place. However, utilities needed to be installed under the floor, so in order to do so, Dr. Goodman and his architect chose to cut out only certain parts of the floor instead of demolishing the whole thing.

Exam room: Warm colors and inviting artwork soften the industrial feel of the building. Dr. Goodman chose to keep the décor simple, with fewer objects to clean or for dog leashes to get caught on, he says.

He also retained the original showroom windows to let light into his reception area and kept the beams exposed throughout the facility to highlight the industrial look. Demolition revealed a beautiful brick wall in the reception area, giving warmth to the otherwise minimalist space. Another challenge included locating the external sewer line: Obviously one existed, because the facility sported six bathrooms. But it took weeks of trial and error to find the right line.

Floor Plan: Everhart Veterinary Hospital

Despite these roadblocks—and the associated costs—Dr. Goodman says a conversion still offered more bang for his buck than building fresh. "I could never have duplicated the high ceilings, layout, and space we got for the same cost if we'd built new," he says. "And everything was already zoned perfectly, saving me from those hassles. Plus, I think our clients are more comfortable in a building that has a history."

Surgery suite: Everhart Veterinary Hospital has two surgery suites. Neither one at all resembles the auto repair shop the space once housed (Below). Each suite measures 160 square feet with the pack and prep space located between the two rooms.

While many doctors visit oodles of veterinary hospitals to gather ideas before building, Dr. Goodman says the existing building just "spoke to him" regarding design decisions. He did move the original entrance to the side parking lot for easier entry, but otherwise kept much of the original external structure as it was.

Getting technical

A new facility also offered the chance to incorporate new technologies. And one of Dr. Goodman's favorite upgrades has been his new digital radiography system. "I would recommend digital radiography to anyone; it's one of the best things we did," he says. "In our first 14 months at this location, we've taken more than 5,000 digital images. It's great that we don't have to store the physical radiographs on-site." ?

Resource library: A second-story resource library features exposed beams from the original building and offers a theater-style view of the operating room. Staff members cared for a dog hit by a car before the practice even opened, with the rest of the team watching from this room.

Dr. Goodman also planned for future technological needs, including installing phone and computer ports in every exam room, even though the ports aren't all being used yet. An electronic whiteboard is being installed in the surgery area to track all procedures digitally.

The site: What was once a sleek 1920s Buick dealership became an auto repair shop (above). After years of decline, the facility is now Everhart Veterinary Hospital.

While Dr. Goodman is thrilled with the outcome of his recent conversion, he does have ideas for how to do things better the next time; and yes, there will be a next time, he says. His biggest advice—for others and for his future self—is to make all decisions in advance. "I didn't realize how expensive change orders are, and how many little decisions pop up throughout the process," he says. "I would nail down absolutely everything, and not let myself be swayed, before the process even starts." ?

Sarah moser is a freelance writer and editor in Lenexa, Kan. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com .

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