More than three years after it was first conceived, the newly opened Three Creeks Medical Center is winning praise from the lawyers, bankers and builders who worked together to make it happen. But the 28,000-square-foot steel and masonry building that today sits at 900 N.E. 139th St. in Salmon Creek is a far cry from what the doctor initially ordered.
Dr. Suzanne Milam wanted something much smaller when she first decided to build a new home for her Cascadia Women’s Clinic. She thought perhaps 6,000-square-feet would do the job. And with a call to RSV Building Solutions back in 2010, Milam kicked off a quest that would ultimately involve three other medical practices.
“In Clark County, and in the city of Vancouver, you just cannot build a 5,000- or 6,000-square-foot office,” said Ron Frederiksen, CEO of RSV. “The economics just don’t work.”
That’s what Frederiksen told Milam and her husband, Scott, when they sought help designing a new headquarters. Rather than telling them to give up on their dream, Frederiksen suggested that the Milams think bigger.
Meanwhile, the owners of Creekside Medical and Balanced Physical Therapy had been talking to one another about wanting to own, instead of rent, said Debbie Lehner, owner of the physical therapy clinic. Before long, those two groups heard about Cascadia Women’s Clinic and another medical office – Adventure Dental – and the four practices decided to pool their resources.
Finding each other, finding a site
Finding each other was just the beginning of a long and sometimes challenging process, Frederiksen said.
The four practices considered buying an existing building to remodel, but the costs were too high at the first site they reviewed, and the next building they found was too big. Eventually, developers David Copenhaver and Kevin DeFord contacted RSV about a parcel available just west of Legacy Salmon Creek.
The property was just the right size, and improvements to the Salmon Creek Interchange make it a quick trip to the nearby hospital, Lehner said.
To buy the land, the clinics needed to commit. With the help of local law firm Landerholm, they’d need to carefully define their legal obligations and outline the cost of the project to each business. So the nine medical professionals who together owned the four practices came together to found Green Awning LLC.
Then they turned to Pacific Continental Bank for help with a Small Business Administration loan.
“Because there is so much risk in these transactions, the bank needed RSV to lock in guaranteed cost numbers before we started construction,” Frederiksen said.
“If you call 10 contractors and say, ‘Would you ever guarantee numbers based on preliminary estimates?’ they’d say, ‘Are you out of your mind?’” Frederiksen recalled. “But we actually locked in our guaranteed numbers before we had all the drawings finished for the project.”
Three Creeks Medical Center became the first commercial project to qualify for Clark County’s fee holiday ordinance, which waived permit fees for commercial projects that would create new jobs. That waiver saved Green Awning $700,000 and was crucial to making the project pencil out, Frederiksen said.
Staying on track
As the project moved from design to construction, Frederiksen began meeting with the owners of Green Awning on a regular basis – sometimes as often as once a week.
“There’s value in working as a larger group to buy quality and quantity for less money,” said Lehner. “And there’s also value in having this many people come together. They may think of things you haven’t thought of yourself.”
Those frequent meetings kept the owners informed about challenges and obstacles, and allowed them to make changes and keep the project on target as it went, Frederiksen said.
The result: The total construction, land and other costs of the $8 million project were within $28,000 of the initial appraised value. Move-in occurred right on time, at the end of 2013.
Coming in so close to budget “was like landing the latest explorer on Mars,” Frederiksen said.
And the owners love the building they collaborated on, according to Lehner.
“Every single one of the owners is ecstatic with how it looks, how it feels,” she said. “And we love the relationships that have developed between the medical groups.”
Bill Dudley, attorney at Landerholm, praised RSV’s role in the project.
“RSV made this project successful by taking on a unique opportunity in a time of economic uncertainty and shepherding it from an initial vision to the development of a state-of-the-art medical office building,” Dudley said. “When issues arose, as they invariably do, Ron (Frederiksen) crafted solutions and worked tirelessly with all parties to continue moving forward. I can’t emphasize enough the value of RSV’s contribution.”
For his part, Frederiksen said that ushering the Three Creeks Medical Center through from concept to finished building has been a highlight of his professional life.
“We took a group of people who had never built anything before, and we built one of the largest medical buildings in Clark County,” Frederiksen said. “It’s custom designed for each of them, and now they are going to work in these buildings for many years to come. It was worth all the hard work.”