Project: Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue campus expansion
Location: East Manatee County, bordering Lakewood Ranch
Cost: $12 million
Size: 23,000 square feet
Builder: Benderson Development
For a rescue that used to operate out of a house trailer, garage and dirt floor barn, the campus expansion going on at Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue is a huge step up.
With the 4,300-square-foot training center and 5,000-square-foot intake building complete, the project has entered the last phase of construction, with a 23,000-square-foot Welcome and Education Center. The final phase also includes the construction of 10 new dog cottages, complete with cupolas to circulate the air and solar panel operated fans to keep the interior cool for the dogs, and a new cat habitat, which grants cats indoor and outdoor access.
The new center will feature a vet clinic, an ice cream or waffle shop, an event space, two onsite living spaces and an end-of-life room so pet owners can avoid the lobby if they’re having to euthanize their pet.
It will also have a hands-on children’s education center as a waiting room bonus for parents needing to entertain their children while they wait. So far, the education materials include a section on X-rays, how to scan dogs for microchips, brushing a dog’s teeth and reading a dog’s body language. While there will be videos displayed on iPads, there will also be interactive things to do like a miniature vet clinic.
The design of the main building is going to replicate walking down a typical downtown main street, with each section a different “storefront.” Of the $12 million Journey Home capital campaign, the rescue has about $3 million more to raise, say officials with the organization. (One of the rescue’s early supporters, and its namesake, is Benderson Development founder Nathan Benderson, who died in 2012 at 94.)
The first building completed, in July 2021, was the intake facility. With 28 kennels, a medical department, kitchen and laundry, it will house quarantined animals away from healthy animals.
The new behavior and training facility opened in March, which is currently operating as the adoption center. But once those operations are able to move into the welcome center, and the training facility is usable, Dari Oglesby, executive director, says it will fill a need for the area.
“This is one of the reasons that we’re doing (this),” she says. “One of the needs that’s not being met in our community is keeping animals in homes (through) affordable behavior care for people to work through their issues instead of having them surrender their pets.”
Oglesby, who runs the rescue with her husband Rob Oglesby. the development director, is hopeful construction will wrap up in late spring 2024, but says realistically it’ll be a little later that year.
“This is like building a hospital,” she says. “There’s so much that goes into it and we’ve really tried to think of every little detail.”
With the expansion, the rescue will be able to double the number of dogs and cats they take in to 117 dogs and 60 cats.
One wow-like part is the Experience Real Life room, where trainers will be able to slowly ease a dog into what it’s like living in a home complete with a vacuum, dishwasher and TV, in a room set up like a tiny home.
Other cool parts include: a dog pool built by Sarasota-based Bulldog Pools that has a shallow and deep end; maternity suites designated for pregnant dog moms; and a parvo ward which will be open to the public and other shelters to house dogs that have been diagnosed with canine parvovirus, a contagious infection.
But perhaps the best part for Nate’s end is that the expansion is adding several revenue sources for the rescue.
The ice cream or waffle shop will provide rental income and an agreement that part of the proceeds go back to the rescue. Nothing has been announced on this front on who will occupy the space, but Oglesby says there are ongoing negotiations.
The event space that’s being built in the back end of the welcome center with a full catering kitchen will generate some revenue as well. It comes equipped with a divider to split it into two spaces if needed.
There is also adoptions. During a visit in October, that number was over 1,000 adoptions. Oglesby hopes with the additional space that can increase to 4,000.
For an animal rescue, the last worry you want on your plate is flooding. But that’s exactly what Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue has been up against since it moved to the Lorraine Road property in 2011 and is also what led to this expansion.
Before going too far into the project, a moving company came in to lift up the foundation of the existing dog cottages so the property could be raised two feet. Dirt from the back of the property was used, leaving a big hole to fill. So crews created a pond with a walkway encircling it, for volunteers to walk the dogs.
“So now, with all the rain we’ve had, we’ve not flooded at all,” Oglesby says.
Hurricane Ian also put a damper on things. It knocked out two dog cottages, but it also brought a host of hurricane refugees. Dogs from three agencies are currently being housed at Nate’s.
Oglesby says a couple located in Fort Myers lost everything during the storm. Making matters worse, they have six dogs. The couple turned to Nate’s as a temporary solution until they could get back on their feet. As of Oct. 25, only two of the dogs had secured a foster.
And it wouldn’t be a construction story without a hiccup in obtaining materials. There are some things the team has ordered that still have a 15-month lead time.
“We’ve just been patient,” Oglesby says. “It’s out of our control. In the beginning we were frustrated and upset, but we realized, to get what we really want, we have to be patient.”