Design Insights: Eastown Veterinary Clinic

Eastown Veterinary Clinic is located in the vibrant business district of Eastown in Grand Rapids. Eight years ago, the owner renovated a vacant former bank building on a tight but prominent site. The community welcomed the veterinarian, and the practice quickly flourished and outgrew the existing space.  In addition to needing more exam rooms and treatment space, the veterinarians felt that separating the dog and cat entrances would provide a more stress-free visit for their small clients. Yet, like many urban lots, the building was bordered by streets on three sides and a shared parking lot in the rear. Utility easements criss-crossed the site, and the trio of streets meant three “front yards”, which have greater setback requirements than a typical side yard.

Working with experienced animal care facility designer and engineer Design Learned Inc., the Mathison | Mathison team maximized square footage by proposing a two-story addition meeting all required setbacks and easements.  MMA worked closely and efficiently with the City of Grand Rapids and civil engineers from Comprehensive Engineering  to help secure an amendment to an existing Special Use Permit for the new addition.

The veterinarian had previously done a nice renovation to the aging bank building, removing “adhered pebble” panels and other 80’s finishes, to create a brick and stone building with a friendly street presence. MMA worked with the owner to develop a material palette and a two-story building massing that would coordinate well with the existing one story clinic. The team matched the original brick and created a similar second entry, well-proportioned to the new, two-story addition. The owner added cat and dog statues at the respective entrances to help clients identify the appropriate entry. 

Building immediately adjacent to an existing structure is complicated. MMA coordinated work with the structural and mechanical engineers to strategically locate openings and extend systems between the existing structure and the new addition. The construction manager, OAK, coordinated complicated logistics  to keep the clinic operating while construction was ongoing. Timing was rigorously coordinated and communication was key as the practice operated in the existing building before trading places with the construction crew, moving into the new build as OAK renovated the existing building. Weekly and bi-weekly Owner, Architect, and Construction Manager meetings were held on-site throughout construction.

With a tight footprint and a demanding program, every square inch inside the building was important. The existing clinic was renovated for a larger treatment area and to create two new exam rooms. The existing lobby and reception became the new “Dog Entry” while the new two-story addition had a separate “Cat Entry” and a series of exam rooms intended specifically for cats, including heated tables and sunny windowsills. The new two story addition houses dental treatment, surgery and lab, a dog ward, grooming room, and laundry on the ground level.  Employee space is located upstairs, including private and shared offices, a break room, conference room, locker area, and a restroom with a shower for employee-use.

Animal care facilities require special planning for mechanical systems and interior finishes. Animal urine and the chemical cleaners required to kill germs are not easy on materials, so finish selections and installations must be thoughtfully curated. Animal diseases are more easily spread than human diseases, not to mention the increased humidity and smells that come with animals, so mechanical systems must be carefully designed with separate mechanical units, multiple zones, and humidity control. MMA worked with Design Learned Inc to incorporate these durable and healthy features into the project.