Local providers are joining national trend of opening medical clinics in former retail spaces
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – In the post-holiday tradition of trying to return those clothes that didn’t fit, get cash back for that unwanted blender, or get store credit for DVD duplicates your body might start to feel the holidays catch up with you in the dead of winter. But don’t worry, there is probably a medical clinic nearby that you can walk-in and see a doctor in between stops.
Medical facilities are popping up in retail corridors across the nation and Tulare and Kings Counties are no exception.
In November, Family HealthCare Network announced plans to build a new full-service clinic in the former Dollar Tree location at the southwest corner of Beech Street and Mooney Boulevard in Visalia. The 17,000 square foot facility will include full medical and dental services with 25 exam rooms and six dental operatories. It is estimated the clinic will employ 40 full-time staff members and serve approximately 10,000 patients annually. Hours of operation are expected to be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The project was approved by the Visalia Planning Commission on Jan. 8 and will become FHCN’s 23 medical clinic between Tulare and Kings Counties.
Up until October, FHCN’s clinic in Hanford was in the middle of downtown shopping. FHCN operated out of a 3,000 square foot clinic at 329 W. Eighth Street for a decade before building a new, three-story, 38,500 square-foot clinic that opened at 250 W. Fifth St., still in the downtown area.
And FHCN isn’t the only medical provider looking to lease retail space. In 2012, Kaweah Delta Health Care District opened a rural health care clinic in Woodlake in the only shopping center in town, at the corner of Magnolia Street and Antelope Avenue. Later that same year, Adventist Health opened its Medical Plaza, the city’s only urgent care clinic, on the edge of the Redrock Plaza Center on El Monte Way in Dinuba.
All of these are part of an emerging trend nationwide. According to the National Retail Tenants Association, health care providers are looking at their operations from a retail approach and the combination of medical/retail use these days is prominent. Demand for urgent-care centers is increasing in most markets since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Shopping centers offer an attractive combination of afford able space, good patient access and ample parking. They also generally pay higher rent than their retail counterparts because renting is substantially less costly than building a medical office, which can double the cost per square foot. Renovating an existing space is less expensive and retail space is often available. Vacancies from big-box retailers and struggling strip centers are turning out to be reasonably priced options for many health care facilities, which are increasingly moving away from the centralized service delivery model centered on traditional hospital campus and trending toward mixed-use properties where medical office buildings, retail stores and restaurants co-exist.
Shopping centers are increasingly being repurposed for medical uses as service providers look to move closer to patients and reduce costs by providing outpatient services. High retail vacancy, particularly in the suburbs, due to overbuilding prior to the recession and housing crisis, and increasing online retail sales have created opportunities for health care tenants.