So much has changed in the last year. As I write this today, I find it hard to remember a time when I took a carefree trip to the grocery store or a restaurant—maskless and without a hand-held sanitizer in my pocket—with little consideration for the physical space in those buildings in relation to the people around me.
Like so many commercial spaces that have been so profoundly impacted over the past year, medical offices have also seen a radical change—especially in the waiting room. It reminds me of the old story of the three men who go duck hunting: an engineer, a chemist and a statistician. A duck flies by and the engineer takes a shot and misses five feet to the right. The duck circles back and the engineer shoots, misses five feet to the left. The statistician says, “We got him.”
That’s what’s going on in medical spaces. Some practices are in the process of moving to a new office space so they can maintain social distancing with larger waiting rooms, while others are making their existing space work by spacing out appointments. Some are using their building’s parking lot as a makeshift waiting room, requiring patients to wait in their car until they are ready to be seen.
Also, in most cases, people are being asked to fill out forms prior to entering the building—which brings me to my next point: the transition to paperless. As more is being done online through portals and digital test results, as much as 15% less physical space is required in medical offices.
Some medical offices are even moving into retail locations vs. moving to another medical office building, in favor of taking up a space that offers abundant parking, close proximity to major roadways, a community setting and a retail landlord who is eager to make deals with quality tenants. With so many practices now being owned by hospitals or medical centers with urgent care facilities, there’s an empty niche in the retail space that was only exacerbated by Covid.
For those considering moving to a non-medical building, one word of caution: you may experience sticker shock when it comes to buildout costs. Medical spaces typically cost between $75 and $140 per square foot to build. When moving into a second-generation medical space, tenants benefit from existing plumbing for sinks, extra bathrooms, etc. Most landlords are unwilling to pay the cost of a medical fit-up, especially in the retail sector. Space in retail buildings is typically provided as a vanilla shell—meaning you get the four walls and a floor. The rest is up for negotiation.
It does seem the medical profession is at the forefront of change, and that’s good for all of us. If you’d like more information on this subject, or are considering where to move your medical space, please feel free to call me at 201-848-6108 or send me an email to email@example.com.