MURRAY The 160,000-square-foot building once home to the 49th Street Galleria is being refurbished into a massive animal hospital.
The landmark reflective glass towers just west of I-15 will house facilities for pet grooming and boarding, MRI and CT scanning, dentistry, intensive-care units and a quarantine wing.
A grand opening is scheduled for April.
The project is being bankrolled by Lawrence Kates and has been undertaken without subsidies of any kind, said Utah Pet Center medical director and veterinarian Dr. Terry Shields.
The center has applied for a business license, and the use fits within Murray's zoning regulations.
"It's going to be pretty much just like a human hospital," Shields said. "I think it will be great for Salt Lake."
The hospital is being opened in Murray because of the city's central location, Shields said. The nearest specialty veterinary centers are in Colorado and Las Vegas. The building will house general practice veterinarians, as well as cardiologists, ophthalmologists and neurologists.
Its management also hopes neighborhood veterinarians throughout Utah will refer their clients to the state-of-the-art medical center for advanced procedures.
"We'll take care of any medical problem," Shields said. The hospital will serve "companion animals" such as cats, dogs and small exotic creatures.
Dozens of construction workers are busy implementing the transformation. Hundreds of cupboards and other furnishings are being built in the space that once housed galactic bowling.
The northern half of the building will contain several exam rooms, operating space, a physical therapy area and an acupuncture room.
Both human footprints and paw prints are visible in the dust created by the construction process, as some pets have already toured the space. Bright yellow "pet cleanup centers" are scattered throughout the building.
The galleria's foyer is being renovated into a cafeteria. However, the stone brick flooring, curving staircases, street lamps and stylized banisters will remain, Shields said. The cafeteria space will allow pet owners to dine while waiting for their pets to recover.
Clients will also benefit from separate waiting rooms one each for dogs, cats and exotic pets.
The center contains a small theater and meeting rooms that will facilitate staff training and pet community meetings, Shields said.The space is being billed as "the nation's largest veterinary facility." It will begin with a staff of about 50, which could grow to 200 within a few years, Shields said.