A tale of two practices

A tale of two practices

Mar 01, 2006

Exterior: Yorba Regional Animal Hospital uses geometrically proportioned windows, horizontal layering of the façade, and vertical craftsman columns to make a bold statement. An overhang shades upper clerestory windows. Luxury suite pavilion: This area is the entry to 10 luxury boarding suites, each featuring its own theme, created by Dr. Dunbar to boost practice revenue and help pay for the new facility.
It seemed so simple Dr. Steven Dunbar's two practices, located in leasehold facilities, were bursting at the seams. After nearly 20 years in each facility, there wasn't enough room to keep growing and improving the way he wanted. So he decided to build anew. And that's where the story gets complicated.

In Anaheim, Calif., land for sale was scarce. And the little available land was outrageously expensive. Still, Dr. Dunbar managed to find a house in a residential area that was zoned for use as a veterinary practice. He planned to move one of his leasehold clinics into this space and find another spot for the second practice. Just as he got the permits and plans lined up, a car wash came up for sale, smack dab between the two leasehold spaces, near a PetSmart and The Home Depot.

"We needed to move," says Dr. Dunbar. "And it would take both practices and some economies of scale to support the cost of such a large space. So combining the two practices seemed perfect."

And it was—though he traveled a tough road before he reaped the benefits. But today the hospital of his dreams is growing leaps and bounds every day. And to top it all off, he earned top honors in this year's Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition, as the 2006 Hospital of the Year.

Overcoming obstacles

Reception: A curved desk serves as a central control and introduces a dramatic aesthetic feature. Receptionists can see the entry, exit, discharge, waiting, retail areas, and more from the front desk. Clients choose among several seating areas while waiting, including benches around a tree planter.
The road to success was rife with problems, delays, and headaches. For one, Dr. Dunbar had difficulty securing financing. Because he planned to tear down the car wash structure and rebuild, he had to do an "as-built appraisal," meaning the banks wanted to know how much the entire project would cost, based on drawn-up plans. That meant Dr. Dunbar had to hire an architect and finalize plans before he had the green light to finance the loan. As the escrow period came to an end, without loan approval, Dr. Dunbar agreed to a lease option to purchase with a nonrefundable 10 percent down and payments of 7 percent interest on the balance until the financing was finished.

Boarding suites: To boost practice revenue, Dr. Dunbar introduced 10 themed luxury boarding suites. Here, dogs enjoy the Doo Wop Diner and the Spaced Out suites. All the upscale suites feature Web cameras, televisions, and windows.
"This was a huge risk—one that made my mouth chalky, my stomach churn, and my consultant increase his liability insurance coverage," Dr. Dunbar says. Luckily, he was able to get the loan approved, attain permits and plans in six months, and complete the project nine months later.

Other obstacles included designing the hospital around a 100-foot-wide utility easement that bisected the property. To compensate, Rich Rauh, AIA, came up with a plan that divides the practice into a two-story facility, making the best use of the land.