BLOGS: Womble Commercial Real Estate

Thursday, August 23, 2012, 11:07 AM

Depressed Retail Market Can Offer Upside to Some Medical Office Tenants

What physician group or other medical office user hasn't envisioned having space in a new building, with its space designed and upfitted exactly as desired? But that can come at a cost that may be prohibitive. Here's an article from the Tampa Tribune that shows how existing big box-type space can be put to effective and more affordable medical office use.

Defunct bookstores just what the doctor ordered

The Tampa Tribune
By George Wilkins
Published: April 11, 2012

When Borders closed all three of its Hillsborough County bookstores last year, both Dale Mabry Highway locations were acquired for renovation as medical clinics.The former Borders in Carrollwood, purchased by Florida Medical Clinic for $3.85 million, is being renovated as a comprehensive extended-hours facility to include primary care physicians, family care internists, an array of specialists and an urgent-care facility.

"There will be a strong primary care presence there, so we'll have a lot of family practice doctors; we'll have internists, cardiology services, orthopedic services, ENT, pulmonologists" and more, said Joe Delatorre, chief executive officer of the medical group with 22 area offices. The facility also will have onsite laboratory and diagnostic services.

The 23,486-square-foot building provides sufficient space to create the comprehensive facility he said patients have come to expect: "You can come see your primary care doctor and see many of your specialists, conveniently located within the same facility."

"When you're dealing with an established building — one of the reasons that attracted us to this location — it's a renovation, so permits are easier to deal with and the review process is easier," he said.

Other factors make former Borders stores attractive for renovation as a medical facility.

A big-box bookstore with its unobstructed floor plan is wide open to complete redesign. "We can configure anything we want inside it," Delatorre said. Renovations are expected to cost $1.5 million.

"But I think the big issue is, as physician practices grow and mature and develop and provide more comprehensive services, they need larger facilities," he said. "And some of the traditional retail space that hasn't done well is a good fit for us."

"It's cost effective, in a high-traffic area with good visibility," Delatorre said.

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What Do Physician Groups Look for in Medical Office Space?

Here's an interesting article from an Orlando-based broker on what she sees as the Top 10 factors that influence physician groups when choosing medical office space. What do you think?


The number one factor affecting doctors' decisions when deciding on medical office space is affordability. Why pay $25 per-square-foot when you can go down the street and pay $17?


Doctors are looking for access to major road arteries and highways so their patients can find easily them. After exiting the highway, doctors expect their patients to make less than two turns to find their offices. After all, as a patient they may not be feeling all that good in the first place. Why make their plight any more difficult if they can't find their doctor?

Mixed Use Development/Modern Architecture

Often, physicians are now looking for mixed use development featuring more modern architecture. They want buildings that are appealing and inviting. Unless it is a very small practice the old one story stucco flat roof office building is becoming a thing of the past.

Parking Ratio and Parking

Most professional office buildings have a parking ratio of two to three parking spaces per thousand square feet. With patients coming and going throughout the day, doctors need to have at least four to five parking spaces per thousand square feet to avoid overcrowding. Since parking can be tight in the downtown corridor, doctors often shy away from downtown medical space. Reserved parking is also a nice plus for key employees and physicians. Covered handicapped pick-up and drop-off areas are a real asset, especially if there are associated outpatient treatment facilities.

Shell Space vs. Used Space

Although shell space may cost more in the beginning, it will end up saving the doctor a lot of money in the long run. With new shell office space you can do space planning/ design work to fit your own needs and patient flow. This way you won't waste square feet. Used office space with existing layouts often can't be adapted without expensive demolitions and remodeling. While this can be accomplished, there still remains the potential for poorly laid out space that doesn't fit the needs required.

Proximity to Other Physicians

In a medical office building, doctors are often looking for proximity to other physicians who could inter-refer to each other. For example, a family medicine physician will frequently refer patients to other medical specialties such as cardiology or orthopedics. With the right synergy, all of the doctors are inter-referring and enhancing their practices.

Ancillary Services

After interviewing several doctors, the new buzz word is "Ancillary Services." Traditionally, hospitals were the main benefactor of many of these services. Ancillary services include MRI's, sleep labs, physical therapists, outpatient surgery centers, and imaging centers. Doctors are more recently looking for extra medical office space where they can install ancillary services and other diagnostic treatment areas.

Geographic Location

In the past, doctors needed to be close to the hospital to round on large numbers of inpatients and perform mostly inpatient surgeries. Now procedures are more frequently performed on an outpatient basis, and doctors can relocate their offices farther away from the hospital at usually lower lease rates. Many practices now have incorporated outpatient surgery facilities located at or nearby their office location.


Willingness of the landlord to restrict leasing to other physicians of similar specialty in the same building is often requested. While many physicians view this as an important concession, it probably is not that important in the long run. After all, there is really nothing a physician group can do if a competitor wants to relocate across the street. This is probably more important in rural or less populated areas where a new hospital is being established.


Building monument or signage to distinguish your medical group or practice is an important feature. Local zoning laws often restrict the size and location of business signage in any given area, but often the developer can offer "top of building" signs for major anchor tenants.

(taken from an article by Shannon Herring in

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