Michelle Royce has just been newly appointed as the Operations and Community Engagement Manager overseeing the Link Project, so we asked her all about it…
Congratulations Michelle on your new role, although you are no stranger to Marian Grove, are you?
Thank you, I’m no stranger at all, having been part of the Sawtell Catholic Care staff team in various roles from reception to Lifestyles for just on fifteen years now!
What do you hope to bring to the community with the Link Project?
I’m looking forward to the time when we’ve finished the preparation and commissioning of The Link site and we can start inviting the community to bring the space to life and make it thrive. The site itself is beautiful but without people it’s just a beautiful, empty garden. We’ll be opening in stages over 2022, with a Grand Opening tentatively scheduled for later in the year, around Spring.
Tell us about the various areas and buildings within the Link area and what they have to offer?
The site itself is modelled after fabulous community spaces like “The Grounds” in Alexandria and “Camperdown Commons” in Camperdown. Our Assets and Project Manager Steve Laidley along with architect Jim Booth from Casa Koala, Landscape Designer Claudia Nevell of Garden Expressions, Interior Designer Lisa Daniel of The Design Cupboard and our builders FM Glenn have done a great job putting it all together, as have the cast of thousands involved in the work. We’ll be thanking them all formally when we have our public opening.
As you enter the site, you pass Reception and The Pavilion, a multifunctional gallery space facing into the garden and opening out onto an amphitheatre lawn. We envisage that this area will host meetings, exhibitions, concerts, and other community gatherings.
Straight ahead from the Pavilion is The Potting Shed and Playground area. The Potting shed is a community gardening space, with raised garden beds partly for the use of our own residents, but we’re also going to work with various groups who will benefit from engaging in this kind of activity.
Then of course the Café that so many locals already know will be opened to the public when we find the right tenant/partner and last but by no means least, The Bungalows.
These are the original, refurbished mudbrick residences of the former owners, the Cockbain family, and have some wonderful historical features such as timbers from the old Coffs Jetty. The Bungalows’ point of difference is a fabulous deck area that cantilevers out over the pond- a perfect spot to relax, unwind and watch the wildlife. This space will also be used for various purposes including our day respite program, which is in development now.
Sawtell Catholic Care is a large complex with many lifestyle and home choices, and a strong connection to the local community. How does The Link fit into all of this?
The Link increases the lifestyle choices we already offer our Marian Grove and Mater Christi residents, with access to the gardens for events, activities, walking, picnics and spending time with visiting family and friends in a serene, secure environment. They’ll have an easy walk or ride to the Café when it opens and if they choose, they can get their hands in the soil to make something beautiful grow in the community garden.
We’ll be working out just how The Link will fit into the scope of the wider Coffs community over the next 12 months, taking it stage by stage to ensure that it fulfills its wonderful potential as an inclusive hub where people of all ages and abilities can connect with nature, and each other.
The Link was designed with accessibility in mind for all visitors, from older people to differently abled, to those living with dementia.
It’s intended to foster the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of our residents and the wider community through social connection and engagement. It’s not called “The Link” for nothing!
If people want to find out more, they can sign up to our monthly e-news on the Sawtell Catholic Care website www.scca.net.au and they’ll get regular information on our progress. You can also follow us on Instagram @The Link.