Dentists Fill a Commercial Real Estate Cavity

September 4, 2009–New Mexico Business Weekly–Steve Ginsberg–Nobody likes to visit a dentist, unless you’re Kevin Bobb. As Grubb & Ellis New Mexico’s senior associate specializing in health services, Bobb has closed 11 sale and lease dentistry deals so far in 2009, with three more that could close before Dec. 31. Bobb has courted dentists for a decade and says 2009 is among his best years, with transactions up 12 percent over 2008, despite agonizingly slow times for most commercial brokers in the office, industrial and retail fields. Bobb’s business has a bright smile because New Mexico, which is underserved by dentists, ranks 49th nationally in per capita dentists to population. With the recession raging in other states, especially in the Rust Belt where some dental practices have failed, the Land of Enchantment has become the land of opportunity for purveyors of root canals and braces. New Mexico does not yet have a dental school churning out new dentists, although state officials are working on that issue. The state averages just one dentist for every 2,400 residents. In Albuquerque, there are 1,700 residents per dentist, while the national average is 1,000 people per dentist. Many of Bobb’s 2009 deals have come in Rio Rancho and the Westside. “When you look at Rio Rancho, there were 78,000 people, and they had just 18 dentists. Look at one building in the Northeast Heights, 6800 Montgomery NE. There are 23 dentists in that one building,” Bobb observes. “Rio Rancho is rushing to catch up, but when you look to the future, there are 170,000 people in southwest Albuquerque and only seven dentists.” Santa Fe, with 145 dentists, is not nearly as underserved. Among Bobb’s completed deals in 2009 was Dr. Casey Allman’s lease for his new general dentistry practice at 5740 Night Whisper NW. Allman is leasing 2,400 square feet and, after opening in May, has 260 patients. Allman, 32, graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ dental school. He chose the Duke City after considering his home state of Utah, as well as Idaho and Nevada. “In comparison to Utah, there is a relative shortage of dentists in New Mexico, so I saw a need here,” Allman said. “My location on the border of Rio Rancho next to the new Presbyterian Hospital has good visibility. I have a big sign along Unser and this has helped. My toothbrush recycling program has caught on.” Allman gives anyone who walks into his office, whether a patient or not, a new toothbrush in exchange for his or her old one. Other recent deals include Dr. Jacob Chartier, opening a new orthodontic practice at 4320 Ridgecrest, Suite E, in Rio Rancho with 2,665 square feet of office space. Dr. Hong Morrison has acquired 2,100 square feet at 2401 Cabezon Blvd. at Colores de Cabezon in Rio Rancho. Dr. Diane Hughes has relocated her practice from New York City to open a new orthodontic practice at Colores de Cabezon in Rio Rancho in 2,200 square feet that she acquired. Despite an abundance of office condos for sale, Bobb said there have been few acquisitions by dentists at bargain prices. Dentists aren’t looking for less expensive space, but for premier buildings that have adequate parking and visibility. The cost of setting up a practice here is about $300 a square foot, and that’s before one counts the investment in expensive equipment. Dentists in Manhattan pay upward of $950 a square foot to open, while those in California can spend as much as $550 per square foot. More dentists are likely to come to New Mexico in the near future, notes Mark Moores, executive director of the New Mexico Dental Association. The state Legislature underwrote a program to help college-bound New Mexico residents with their tuition to out-of-state dental colleges with the mandate that they practice in New Mexico. A dental residency program was established at the University of New Mexico for 10 students. Meanwhile, a feasibility study sponsored by Gov. Bill Richardson to establish a full dentistry school in the state is underway, Moores added. “More dentists are coming here because it’s a great place to practice and for quality of life issues. The Legislature is pushing to attract more dentists in the future,” Moores said.

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