Big dreams in a small space

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Apr 01, 2004




When clients visit Animal Health Center at Weston in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., no room is off limits. And to emphasize that philosophy, only clear glass doors separate the client, treatment, surgery, and kennel areas. "We're proud of our facility and we find that clients really appreciate the open atmosphere," says owner Dr. Miguel Cordova. "The clear glass doors give visual access to our backstage activities and reinforce clients' perception of the high-quality medicine and care we provide. In fact, we're so proud of our facility that we give all of our first-time clients a tour."

The use of glass in different rooms makes the practice seem larger and more open, too. Which is a good thing, considering the practice measures only 2,600 square feet. And Dr. Cordova obviously employed these treatments well. His hospital was chosen as the Best Small Hospital in the 2004 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition, a category open to hospitals that measure 3,500 square feet or smaller.


The hospital occupies half of this 5,200-square-foot Spanish-style building. City regulations limit signage to the front wall of the building. No logos or outside signs are allowed. The building faces the main street for high visibility.
Paving the way Dr. Cordova, a 1992 graduate of Louisiana State University, put in 10 years as an associate at various practices. And he'd hoped to buy into a practice someday. But fortunately, the deal he had been negotiating fell through, forcing Dr. Cordova to take the opportunity to break out on his own. "For a few years my wife and I were contemplating opening a practice," says Dr. Cordova. "This seemed like the right time to break out, so with her encouragement, I started looking for a location in a developing city nearby."

While continuing to work as an associate, Dr. Cordova met with his architect, Manny Gutierrez, and set the ball in motion. In a city with few good commercial sites available and no land open for a freestanding building, he eventually found space at the Weston Medical and Professional Campus, a complex of 17 buildings owned by or subleased to non-retail tenants. Dr. Cordova bought two bays near the entrance to the complex with visibility from the main street.


Dr. Cordova purposely chose white cabinets in the lab and throughout. "I wanted any spot of dirt to show and be cleaned immediately," he says.
Six months later, he told his employers he was leaving, and three months after that he was in his own building. "My employers took the news fairly well," says Dr. Cordova. "I think they understood that I had to look out for my future and for my family, and they saw this as a good step for me."

Dr. Cordova considered his experiences in previous facilities when deciding what to include in his new practice. So putting noise and odor control at the top of the list was a no-brainer. One strategy: Dr. Cordova and his architect formulated a plan that put at least three doors between the reception area and the dog ward at the back of the building. Good ventilation, with fans in the kennel, isolation, cat boarding, developer, staff lounge, and exam rooms, helps exhaust odors.