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Washington State Dental Association

Practice Expanding? Use A Professional!

Special to the WSDA News · Stuart Silk, Stuart Silk Architects

There are times in every dentist’s career when it is time to expand, remodel, update, or move to a new property. While you have been busy running your practice and paying the bills, you have likely noticed many things you would improve upon in another location. Moving to a new property, because you have simply outgrown your current space or want a better location, is both exciting and a little daunting. 

Purchasing a property is rarely as simple as it seems, and it is important to engage a qualified architect who can help you uncover the possible pitfalls and help fully realize its full potential. Architects have a lot of experience helping businesses find the right location. We have also seen lots of situations that at face value appeared to work but end up being a lot less than ideal. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and overlook key factors.

Some of the questions that need to be asked are:  
Is there enough parking and is it accessible? 

Will the municipality allow a dental office in the location you are considering?  And even if they do, will the permitting process be difficult, expensive or time consuming? 

Does the space have the proper dimension and proportions to fit your needs; for example, long properties can be challenging and inefficient even if they seem big enough. 

After running a successful practice, you may feel up to the challenge to evaluate the finances and the structure of particular deal. But we have found that planning issues can be tricky especially when building new. Design professionals look at new properties regularly and are used to ferreting out the potential roadblocks.  While a top notch realtor is essential, realtors are not versed on the latest building codes nor are they able to help you visualize your future practice. And don’t discount how much dealing with municipalities can be frustrating with plenty of opportunity for delays.  Restrictions and zoning codes are only becoming more restrictive nationwide and many cities are adopting additional community specific regulations. 

We recommend that all of our clients take the time to go through a thorough feasibility process before closing any property or signing a long term lease. At best one should take the time to conduct a code review of the building or vacant land, prepare a conceptual design, evaluate if there is a potential for hazardous materials, and meet with the permitting authority to determine if there are  any permitting concerns or red flags. A feasibility study  may takes a few weeks  and often turns up issues that hadn’t been considered and need to be addressed before making a final decision to purchase the  property. Identifying unforeseen issues and potential encumbrances prior to final signatures will help you avoid costly mistakes and will enable you to reach the full potential of your practice. Working closely with a qualified architect is an investment that will pay dividends for many years.


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