THE PURRRRFECT PROPERTY PROJECT: A COMPLEX PROJECT WITH LOTS OF MOVING PIECES. DR RICHARD GOWAN, OWNER - THE CAT CLINIC
Cat doctor, Dr Richard Gowan, together with his partner Dr Amy Lingard, operate The Cat Clinic, a busy vet hospital that caters exclusively for cats.
As the cat clinic rapidly grew out of its compact and bustling space in Prahran, it engaged BRM to solve what was to become a long and complex property puzzle.
We talked with Richard about his experience and the challenges and opportunities that this project presented for himself, his staff and of course, his furry clientele.
The cat clinic is a unique offering in the pet healthcare space. Tell us a bit about the clinic.
We opened our practice in 2005 after having worked together in feline only practice in QLD for several years. If you own a cat, you just know why a cat-only practice makes sense. The clinic attracts staff with a passion for cats and our clients travel for all around Melbourne (and beyond) to see our team. Amy was one of the first registered Specialists in Feline Medicine in Melbourne, so our little practice sees both first opinion and referral medicine.
What were the challenges you faced in the existing space in Prahran? How were they impacting your work and your feline client base?
Like many small business owners, we could never have foreseen the future, let alone 20 years later. When we first opened, we had plenty of space for our tiny team. As we grew, we simply retro-fitted and MacGyver’d our space to suit. After about 10 years, we rented a second site to move our boarding cattery – so artificially creating more space, but this was instantly used by our ever increasing team.
Our clinic has grown at the same rate every year since opening, but this meant that 5 years ago we were bursting at the seams. I always looked at properties for sale in our area, but never had the gumption to buy, it always seemed too complicated, too expensive, too much risk. We always seemed to be beaten by a developer or our imagination didn’t see past some of the perceived obstacles.
The current Cat Clinic in Prahran and a render of the new clinic set for completion by the end of 2024 (render supplied by Gardiner Architects)
In finding your next space you engaged BRM to help you solve a complex property puzzle. Can you talk us through the project and some of the road blocks you encountered?
Our accountants used BRM to find and move to a new office – so the referral to BRM was easy. I established an immediate personal rapport with Gab and the team. They spent the time getting to know our business, our needs and wishes and took a genuine interest in our project (despite not being cat people).
Our ideal was to stay close to our original location and find a property 3-4 times the size of our current one with adequate parking. We wanted to build one of Australia’s premiere Vet hospitals for cats, somewhere we could see ourselves happily working for another 20 years, something to be just as proud of as when we first opened.
Based on our scope of ideal location and cost, things were challenging due to the massive increases in property prices and the attractiveness for developers. We had some personal bad luck layered with COVID, we always seemed to miss out on potential properties by just a whisker.
Gab was always thinking outside the square and coming up with novel means of advancing the project. After COVID, BRM suggested expanding our search area. Within weeks, several potential sites were identified and within months BRM had helped negotiate the purchase of our new hospital site. Through BRM, we were introduced to an architect that has overseen the project from this point to delivery late 2024.
Tell us about the new space!
Our new space will be a purpose built 430sqm, two storey amazing veterinary hospital for cats. Our brief with our architect was something that inspired us every day we walked into the building. Something with lots of natural light, that incorporated greenery, was environmental and was simply a beautiful building.
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