Struggling to compete with the convenience of online shopping and other economic stresses, the Business Insider indicated that almost three thousand big box stores planned to close by the end of 2023 in the United States.

While it is unfortunate for those traditional brick-and-mortar businesses as they grapple with the current state of retail, the real estate vacancies left behind have created opportunity for other ventures, including healthcare systems. Hospital systems in large metropolitan areas have been expanding their outpatient services into the suburbs and exurbs via repurposing vacant big box stores. Without having to build a new medical office building with its required utility infrastructure and parking, adaptive reuse of retail spaces is a cost effective and environmentally conscious way to reach new patients in the competitive healthcare market.

Piedmont Physician’s Group Converts Former Walmart

The Piedmont Physician’s Group seized an opportunity to lease space inside a former Walmart store for a new 30,000 SF multi-specialty clinic located in Covington, Georgia. The former Walmart was located in an established shopping and retail area with good visibility to attract new patients in the growing suburbs east of Atlanta. The location also offered plenty of convenient parking for patients and staff. With so much potential at hand, it only made sense for Piedmont to take advantage of the efficiencies afforded them by a space of this nature.

Starting with the exterior, the original design of the big box store was concrete block with minimal windows and a heavy canopy that obscured the entrance. In its current state, the building did not mimic the desired aesthetic. By retrofitting the existing exterior façade to accommodate large windows, awnings, and a new welcoming entrance, the reinvented space now conforms to Piedmont Healthcare’s branding while presenting an inviting appeal to patients.

The renovated façade of the Piedmont Multi-Specialty Clinic located in Covington, Georgia shows no remnants of the former big box store.

Upon entry, the existing twenty-foot-high, open-to-structure ceiling above provided limited acoustical privacy in the exam rooms, a necessity in a multi-specialty healthcare clinic. This created a challenge for the design team. Rethinking the typical wall-to-structure configuration, designers created a sound-attenuated sealed metal stud and drywall box at each exam room. This option included a lay-in acoustical ceiling for easy maintenance for the light fixtures, sprinklers, diffusers, and other ceiling devices typically found in an exam room ceiling.

In the fully converted space, patients can now visit their primary care provider as well as specialists for chronic conditions like heart problems, arthritis, diabetes, or migraines. Benefiting from the ample space and tall ceilings of the former big box store, this multi-specialty clinic now offers a new healthcare home base for patients in the nearby community. Although identifying efficiencies was key to making the numbers pen out, the new use of space takes advantage of every aspect afforded to it. From a light-filled entrance made possible by tall ceilings to the space for centralized registration and generous waiting rooms, patients now can make use of what was once an empty, cold shell.

The high ceilings of the big box store and new windows create a bright and airy front entrance at the Piedmont Multi-Specialty Clinic.

Summary: Fiscally and Environmentally Responsible Healthcare Expansion

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, urban systems are embarking on a transformative journey into suburban and exurban territories, striving to serve a burgeoning population. While the prospect of converting former big box stores into healthcare clinics may present its share of hurdles, it is an endeavor well worth pursuing. The adaptive reuse of these spaces not only provides a rapid and cost-effective solution but also champions environmental consciousness.

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