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Thread: Limiting medical office floor area

  1. #1
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Limiting medical office floor area

    I was wondering how you guys feel about limiting medical office square footage to less than 10,000 square feet. We have a few exisitng medical offices that are larger than that but most are less than 10,000 sf.

    I am trying to figure out what the potential impacts would be and weigh the pros and cons of such a limitation. I have noticed that some neighboring communities have started to build mega medical office complexes that look more like mini hospitals. Historically, medical offices in this community have been more "office park" with smaller buildings clustered in a medical park development.

    Any thoughts on this subject would be greatly appreciated.
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I'm curious why you would want to limit the size. Traffic? Too many high paying jobs? Every community i work for would kill for a large - even tax exempt - medical complex.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    I guess it is all about design. We have 2 hospitals in our community and many small medical office parks close by. Like I said, in neighboring communities "big box" style medical offices are becoming the norm. It really is not appealing. If the community does not want big box retail, why would they want big box medical offices.

    I think more of a "medical campus" concept would be a better type of development to encourage.
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  4. #4
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    I'd go for design guidelines before limiting the size of the structures. If it's the aesthetics that are the issue, go at it directly.

    We have an 80,000 square foot facility under construction here. We went through two or three rounds of design review on the architecture before coming up with a design that both client ant the town were pleased with.

    See for yourself (phase I is now open. Pics are from December 06, while the facility was under construction):







    renderings from the project:



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    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Be careful what you wish for, instead of one mega, all inclusive site, you could end up with small sites all over town.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Ok, I need to explain this better I think.

    NH-I think the project you posted is the exact sort of thing that we are trying to block from happening in certain zones.

    I guess when I say it is all about design I am referring to massing, scale and other issues as well as aesthetics.

    Right now, our code allows medical offices in all commercial zones and employment zones. The proposed limitation would be applied to certain commercial zones that are in areas that are more of a neighborhood scale. An 80,000 square foot complex would be completely out of scale with the surrounding areas in the zones where we are considering the square footage cap.

    Does that make more sense?

    Just for the heck of it, here are a couple of existing medical office complexes that we have. The first is an older one, the second is one of our most recent developments. I think this is the sort of thing people around here are comfortable with.




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  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I am going to side with those who recommend design guidelines over size limitations. Medical care is changing. The doctor is not a lone professional or even team of 4-5 people in a small office anymore. Medical offices now contain multiple specialists and facilities we would have gone to the hospital for in the past. There is often a clinic, radiology and other laboratories, physical therapy, and outpatient surgery. All of that takes up a good deal of space. Limit the space, and the use will go elsewhere.

    It isn't really all that bad. Back in the 1970's Chicago's Mayor Daley (Richard I) was not feeling well after lunch. He paid a visit to his doctor, and while there, died from a heart attack. In a modern clinic, with all of the equipment available to the doctors, he would probably have pulled through. Quality health care is important and should be facilitated, rather than impeded. An personally, I think a well-designed medical center can be much more attractive than the ones you have shown, even if it is larger.
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    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Why limit someone's business model?

    If anything propose design guidlines.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Cardinal, that makes sense. I will make sure that the needs of the modern medical profession enter the discussion!

    Again, the proposed cap is not for all of the zones where medical centers are permitted, just the neighborhood scale commercial zones. That being said, after reviewing the prevalant zoning areas around our two hospitals, one of them is smack in the middle of the neighborhood scale commercial zoning. The more permissive zoning areas are pretty far from the hospital site. A cap could really cause problems for potential development of a large medical center.

    After reading what you guys have said, I think I will add something different to the mix. What about making medical centers that are in excess of 10,000 sf floor area a special use in the neighborhood scale commercial zones? This would allow for a stringent review of large scale proposals.

    Just a thought.

    I don't think the design guidelines approach would fly. The only design guidelines we have in our code right now are for downtown. I think it took 2 years to get them fleshed out.
    Last edited by graciela; 19 Sep 2007 at 2:04 PM. Reason: additional thought
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    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Our business district is very small, it directly abuts a settled village residential neighborhood of mostly year-round folks - we have a business district that attempts to allow for transition commercial uses into our core business district

    on its face, it's all good and a medical office building is perfect for transitional development

    but, we recently and painfully permitted a medical office addition to an existing medical office - the existing medical office is right on Main Street with some parking in the back - there are issues in the neighborhood that is behind this building with cars parked all over the place, people coming out and smoking on their front lawn because they can't smoke on the property, and just basic mayhem from the ADD kids frequenting the behavior center (though those stories were pretty funny in the hearing) -

    so we have a building that isn't working well with its neighbors and now we want to make it bigger -

    they ultimately got approved but not without a host of conditions asking to be nice and an upheld appeal along the way

    so I get this question posed - I think medical office buildings of any scale have to be weighed just like any other use as to scale and appropriateness

  11. #11
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    If you do size limitations on medical office, be prepared for the extra time you will have to require because you will need to get information from the property owners everytime a use or business changes.

    Do you allow professional office in the same place as medical office?

    I think you will have problems if you try to limit the maximum square footage. Also, if you do try to limit sqft, don't use 10,000sqft as the max. That is not that large. In my 2nd/3rd ring suburb, we routinely get medical office buildings of 12,000-15,000 sqft.

    You should start worrying whe you get to 20,000sqft+ in individual buildings.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I think you are right on track with making is a special/conditional use.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    Update

    I just wanted to give you guys an update.

    I presented findings about medical centers and their needs to the PC last week. Most everyone seemed to agree that design standards are the way to go. I have been given the task to find similar places that have design standards that cover medical centers.

    We are a college town with a population of roughly 101,000 or so people in the city/county.
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