Love at first site: Your location investigation checklist

April 6, 2020
dvm360 Staff
Vetted, Vetted May 2020, Volume 115, Issue 5

From location to soil to utilities, here are the fundamentals for finding that perfect site to build or lease your veterinary hospital space.

There are many, many steps that must come before cutting the ribbon on a new veterinary clinic. There’s planning, building, designing and everything in between. But before any of that can even be started, the perfect site needs to be chosen. Whether you have the perfect spot in mind or you’re still looking for that love-at-first-site moment, here are the fundamentals of site investigation.

Building a practice

  • Locate your dream site in a growing area as far from other veterinary practices as you can get.
  • Check with your municipality to make sure the site is zoned correctly. Identify any restrictions on that zoning, such as an inability to have outdoor dog runs.
  • Have a geotechnical report (also called a soils report) done. The report should include foundation recommendations. If the soil is bad, you will need to find out if the foundation can be built affordably on that type of soil. Have a survey done of the geotechnical report that identifies easements, wetlands, property lines and any other site restrictions.
  • If your selected site has water and hasn’t been identified as a wetland, this will need to be determined because most states have regulations about building near a wetland and you may not be able to build there.
  • Check the slope. Discuss with an architect or civil engineer whether the site is flat enough to build on.
  • Determine the location of utilities. Check to see if you can get utilities to the site and what the cost is to do so. Some sites have access already, but some don’t. You’ll need professional help for this.
  • Get a sense for any other major site development costs, such as turn lanes that will be put in at the road, storm water ponds, etc.
  • Figure out whether the site has unusual local (often environmental) requirements that will restrict its use. For example, in parts of California you aren’t allowed to cut down oak trees, so you have to work around them.

After this has all been done and the site has passed or is passing muster, remember to complete a phase 1 environmental study to ensure there are no environmental hazards on the site. Even if the site looks like it hasn’t been used, it’s still an important step to carry out.

Leasing a space

If you're opting for a leasehold space instead of building new, there’s still plenty to keep in mind before you make your final decision:

  • Locate in a thriving or growing area. You don’t want to be in the dead shopping center.
  • Make sure your hospital is as far from other veterinary practices as you can make it.
  • Check (and double check) that the space is in good shape. Look for mold or other common problems. The building should be well taken care of.
  • Try to find a space without a business above it. You can work with a business above you, but it’s much more difficult. Single-story shopping spaces work best. Square or rectangular spaces work better than long, thin ones. A narrow place wastes space (say that five times fast). In the event that you do choose a small space, look for something no narrower than 25 feet. It is extremely difficult to work in anything narrower than that. You should also avoid irregularly shaped spaces, such as an L-shaped space with a center staircase.
  • Determine the availability of utilities to the space. Ask the building owner whether you can expand utilities if needed. At some point you may need more power to the unit and need to know ahead of time that you will be able to make those changes.

Look to the future

At the end of the day, always be sure to think strategically about your plan. In the future, will you expand or move? If you plan to expand, try not to locate next to something that will be there forever so you have the potential for grow.

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