By James Hettinger
Greenville Humane Society (GHS) in South Carolina has a waiting list … for birthday parties. That’s just one sign that the shelter is connecting with locals following a mid-2011 move to a renovated former warehouse. “The comment I get is, ‘It is such an energetic and vibrant place, we can’t believe it’s a shelter.’ That’s number one,” says executive director Kim Pitman. “And number two [is], ‘I can’t even find a parking place.’ This is the most popular place to be in Greenville on a Saturday.” Previously located in the local county-run shelter, GHS decided to reinvent itself for broader appeal. Collaborating with McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture and marketing communications agency Erwin Penland, GHS officials set out to create an inviting facility. Eye-catching, 15-foot-tall pictures of animals adorn the building exterior, and a wraparound porch gives GHS the flexibility to hold sidewalk retail sales and “yappy hours” that let adopters and their dogs socialize. Inside, a wall with retail merchandise features portholes that peek into kennels. “As you’re looking through collars and bowls and leashes, all of a sudden there’s a live puppy or kitten playing,” says Jeff Howle, senior vice president for Erwin Penland. The new shelter is close to where about 650,000 people live or work; the previous location was near about 300,000. The architects streamlined the work areas so staff members don’t have to backtrack as they make their rounds, notes project architect Cary Perkins. Business is so brisk that GHS needs to expand and will conduct a second phase of its capital campaign this year. The weekend birthday parties—where the kids get behind-the-scenes tours and often bring presents for adoptable puppies—attract parents who never would have visited the old shelter. “They’re either adopting or coming back,” Pitman says. “It’s been great.”
For East Bay, a Better Way
At East Bay SPCA in Oakland, Calif.—one of the few nonprofit animal welfare agencies in the country with a veterinary clinic open to the general public—the time for an upgrade had arrived. The clinic in recent years had served a steadily increasing number of animals (topping 20,000 annually) while continuing to operate out of a 1950s-era building that SPCA president and CEO Allison Lindquist describes as a “modified garage” that was “bursting at the seams.” Meanwhile, local construction contractors were starting to get busy as the economy improved, which Lindquist took as a sign that the SPCA should get moving before prices skyrocketed. Working with W.L. Butler Construction and Swatt Miers Architects, the SPCA undertook a $9 million renovation that includes the new, 5,000-square-foot standalone Theodore B. Travers Family Veterinary Clinic (named after a bichon frise mix adopted from the SPCA, whose family donated money for the project). It features six exam rooms, a lobby with separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, a pharmacy, three prep areas, three surgical suites, and a digital X-ray room. The neighborhood has no other veterinary services, Lindquist notes, so many of the clinic’s clients essentially have nowhere else to go and might otherwise end up surrendering their pets. “We have people that come to us in Mercedes, and people who come on bicycles,” she says. “We have people who show up in wheelchairs with their dogs on their laps.” The new clinic gives the SPCA the capacity to do more complicated surgeries, while keeping costs relatively low. The clinic recently operated on a family’s golden retriever who had a perforated intestine. The cost of doing the surgery at a local emergency clinic was prohibitive, and the family was in tears at the prospect of euthanasia. But the SPCA clinic was able to do the surgery for about one-sixth the cost—the kind of work that Lindquist says leaves the staff excited and appreciative.
For more photos view The Build-Out slideshow.
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