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A dental practitioner wants a clean, professional looking, up to date office.  And that office should be convenient for clients to access.  Beyond that, you probably want to think very little about your office and be able to focus on doing your best work for your patients.  While picking the right geographic location is crucial to your business, it is a task best suited to a knowledgeable real estate salesperson.  That I am not.  But once you have settled on an area, evaluating the various potential buildings and spaces for your practice is the next, and very important step.  This document can be a useful reference in this second step. For the purposes of this blog I will address spaces situated in strip centers.  In my next article, I will address potential spaces in multi-tenant, multi-story buildings.

Strip centers can be appealing as a location for a dental practice for a variety of reasons.  Strip centers usually have convenient and ample parking (although this should be checked during different times of day).  They almost always offer barrier free access to tenant spaces within the center making it possible for any disabled clients to easily enter your space.   It is also likely that new clients will discover your practice while visiting other tenants in the center.  For the above reasons, you may determine that a strip center space is the right choice for your practice.  If so, there are some very important considerations to keep in mind while reviewing such locations, and failure to do so could result in signing a lease you will regret for years.  While not an exhaustive list, some important considerations would be:

  • Confirm the condition and adequacy of the existing HVAC system

Are the units nearing the end of their useful life?  If so, you may want to negotiate that new units be installed and warranted by the landlord.  At the very least, you know that you will be facing the expense of replacing the units in the near future and could possibly reduce the lease rate you pay to compensate for that.

Are cold air returns ducted?  If so, PVC pipe can be used for plumbing vent lines which is a construction cost savings.  Ducted returns also reduce sound transmission.

Does the space have heating and cooling equipment installed? Let me provide an extreme instance of buyer beware in this regard.  A client engaged us to build out their space in a newly constructed strip center.  While visiting the site, we discovered that the landlord had not installed any HVAC systems other than a small temporary heater to keep the sprinkler system from freezing.  We asked our client if they were aware that they would have to be providing their own HVAC equipment and that this equipment would have to remain behind with the building when our client moved out.  Our client was unaware of this and shocked that they would need to spend an additional $15,000 to have installed at their expense what is typically provided by the landlord.  Unfortunately, they had already signed the lease and had no bargaining power.

  • Confirm the adequacy of the electric system:

Is there currently Romex wiring in the facility that may need to be removed and replaced to meet code?

Is the electric service size and panel size adequate to meet the needs of your practice?

Is the electric panel of a type that still has breakers available for it?

  • Plumbing:

Is the incoming water service of adequate size to meet your requirements?

Does the water service already have a backflow preventer?  If not, one will have to be installed.

Is there currently PVC pipe above the ceiling?  PVC is less expensive than copper or cast iron, and if it is currently in use, it can likely be used for any new piping required during your renovations.

Is there a history of sewer issues in the building (ask the neighboring tenants)?

  • Is the storefront glass insulated; if not the front of your space will be cold and windows will ice up in the winter.
  • Do the walls separating your potential space from your neighbor extend to the roof deck?  This is important for security as well as sound transmission.  Are the walls insulated, again, to reduce sound transmission?
  • What is the nature of the businesses on either side of the space you are considering?  Will objectionable noise emanate from those spaces that could negatively impact the experience of your patients during their visit to your office?
  • Is there a rear access door to the space?  This can be convenient for receiving deliveries during business hours and may lead to convenient parking spaces for your staff.
  • Beyond the items listed above, you will want to know if your potential space is separately metered for gas, electric, and water or if your landlord will charge you for these utilities on a square foot basis.

Keeping these considerations in mind while reviewing potential homes for your practice will aid you in securing a space and lease rate that make sense for your business.

Stay tuned for our next blog on selecting a space in a multi-tenant, multi-story building.

Jim Perry

President, Perry Contracting Inc.