A new veterinarian clinic is rising from the ashes of the old Quail Run Motor Inn.

The former motel, destroyed by a fire on April 28, 2017, is being replaced by a small animal clinic, Grande Ronde Animal Hospital. Excavation work for the animal hospital is beginning.

The new clinic is being built at 2400 Adams Ave. by Lee Darch, a veterinarian at Kittrell Animal Hospital in North Carolina. Darch has worked as a veterinarian in North Carolina for four decades. He said he is excited about opening a clinic in La Grande.

“I enjoy the atmosphere of small communities,” said Darch, whose daughter lives in La Grande.

Kittrell has a population of about 500 and is located in Vance County, which has a much higher population density than Union County does.

The veteran veterinarian has no plans of retiring anytime soon.

“I have a lot of good years left,” he said.

Grande Ronde Animal Hospital will be the third veterinarian clinic Darch has built. His other two, including Kittrell Animal Hospital, which he earlier sold but is still working at, were built in North Carolina.

Darch has had a love for animals since growing up on a dairy farm. He likes working not only with pets but also their owners.

“I enjoy helping people take care of and enjoy their pets,” he said.

The veterinarian said that the two clinics he built in North Carolina each drew between 45 and 120 patients a day.

Darch received a grant of $75,000 from the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency for the animal hospital, which will cost a little more than $700,000 to construct. The veterinarian said the grant will help him purchase more equipment and hire more people.

“It helped a bunch,” he said.

Throughout his career, Darch has made a point of hiring high school and college students.

“I have relied heavily on college and high school students as part-time employees to give them jobs and introduce them to the very fulfilling careers associated with veterinary medicine,” said Darch, who plans to do the same in La Grande.

Darch said the clinic will eventually employ between 12 and 15 people.

“I will create high-quality, good-paying family-wage jobs,” the veterinarian said in his application for funding by the La Grande URA.

The new animal hospital will provide medical, dental, surgical and diagnostic services in a 3,000-square-foot building. It will be on a landscaped lot with trees, grass, shrubbery and flowers.

“These long overdue changes will make a much more welcoming site as you approach south La Grande,” Darch wrote in his

Darch said he believes the Grande Ronde Animal Hospital will play an important local role.

“Almost every household owns a pet and many have not (received) regular veterinary care. There is a need for another veterinary hospital in the (Grande Ronde) valley since the other clinics are fully booked most days,” Darch said.