What Does it Cost?
By Al Locker
Almost every week I get a call asking a question similar to that. It’s like asking how much does a car cost. It could be from ten thousand dollars up to a million, depending on the brand, type, and features. It’s exactly the same for a pet care facility.
When first thinking about cost, most people only consider the hard construction costs and the land or lease cost. There are many other project costs involved, but here are just a few critical areas to start with:
On a “from ground up” project, the site development costs can be substantial. The more difficult the site, such as one on a hillside, the more it will affect the cost. Also, if the local permitting authority has any special requirement like parking, landscaping, sound control, traffic, or fire lanes, these could really skew the per-square-foot cost for construction.
If the project is a tenant improvement buildout, there may be substantial demolition costs of the existing space, and retro work to bring the building to meet current city code. Lastly, there is your locale to consider. For instance, construction costs in New York City are considerably higher than in Jacksonville, Florida.
Adding to the cost question, we must also determine what components actually comprise your vision of an up-scale pet resort. To provide a ballpark construction and/or total project cost estimate, first consider all the profit centers you have planned and the proposed volume of pets you want to service for each. Then a more in-depth discussion of the proposed method of operations, including cleaning protocol, for each profit center is needed. From that information, the square footage and other building requirements can be made to determine the size of the facility.
There are economies to scale, and size does matter. For example, compare a 2,000 sf facility and a 4,000 sf facility that both need a reception area, breakroom, prep area, office, groom room, and restrooms. These areas are more costly than an open daycare space, for instance, due to the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and finishes needed for them. The size and cost of those areas will be similar in both facilities; however, the per- square-foot cost is being calculated with one being twice the size of the other. So the smaller one’s cost per-square-foot will be higher than the larger one. In this industry however, I’ve observed that there are many sizes and ways to be successful. Just be aware that when you are trying to get some pricing done there are many variables.
In addition to size, the types and proportion of the profit centers to the total project will also affect the per-square-foot cost. A facility that has half of the area as open daycare space and no grooming will be less expensive to build than an equal-quality facility with grooming, enclosure boarding, and a smaller daycare area.
Lastly, what does up-scale mean? It’s a subjective term and varies from person to person. In areas that only have older facilities around, a new modern facility may be upscale in comparison. Some consider the hotel-lobby look for the reception, client social interaction areas, and boarding the pets in warehouse-type areas to be up-scale.
To others, up-scale means that every part of the facility, including the pet accommodations are high-end, including flooring, lighting, furniture, decoration, wall finishes, and flat-screen televisions. Or, up-scale could be any combination of the above.
So back to answering the original question... My answer is ‘it depends’. Even though there is no obvious and quick answer to that question, through an interview process gathering the above information, your project parameters and size can be established. From that point, a ballpark estimate of a project’s cost can be easily determined. I guess ‘easily’ is also subjective!
Al Locker is the president of Turnkey, Inc. Turnkey, Inc. is a 55-year old design/build construction company specializing in design and consulting for the pet industry. Turnkey has designed over 65 pet care facilities, including veterinary hospitals around the U.S., and built twelve in the Houston area. Designs range from ground-up construction to lease space build-out/tenant improvements. Al & his wife, Suzanne, have owned ABC Pet Resort since 1991.