After giving us their new landmark building in Wentworth St, children's charity Royal Far West has announced plans for a $100 million transformation of their central Manly site.
The organisation has promised to deliver an "iconic" health and wellbeing campus, and has already signed two of Australia's best-known architects to create the design - internationally acclaimed Glenn Murcutt, who grew up in Clontarf, and Angelo Candalepas.
The new Centre for Country Kids on Wentworth St, and Old Royal Far West buildings on South Steyne
The rebuild will enable the charity to expand its work - caring for country kids with health and developmental problems.
Royal Far West will not sell any part of the beachfront site and will work within the approved development application which is already in place. That means building heights will be restricted to five stories with a set back for street frontages, and eight levels at the back of the site.
The ageing red-brick buildings on Wentworth St and South Steyne will be demolished, with the new campus likely to include retail and commercial space and residential accommodation.
Business Director Jacqui Emery said the organisation needed to expand to be able to help the increasing number of country kids with health and developmental needs.
She said more than 100,000 needy children in remote or regional Australia had very limited, or no access to paediatric specialists. Their needs included developmental problems such as autism or attention deficit disorders; mental health issues; or speech, movement, dietary or dental problems.
A first step has already been taken with the purpose-built Centre for Country Kids opening its doors on Wentworth St late last year.
The stylish $43 million building integrates treatment, recreation and school rooms in a welcoming, open-plan design. Assessment and treatment rooms are bright-coloured and well-equipped and class rooms and rec areas are chock full of games, toys and activity areas.
Clockwise from top right: Multi-purpose outdoor play space; school room for very young children; history wall in lobby; school room for primary students. All in new Centre for Country Kids.
It's where country children spend their days, usually accompanied by their parents and other siblings, during a week-long assessment or treatment program. Treatment is holistic, with Royal Far West employing 150 staff, including paediatricians, dentists, speech and occupational therapists, psychologists, dieticians and nurses. Parents, who often feel isolated and overwhelmed, are supported too. The program, which includes all meals and five nights accomodation, is valued at $7000 per family but is provided free of charge.
While in-house treatment is required for complex problems, many children can be treated remotely using 'Telecare'. This Skype-like system allows clinicians to go virtually anywhere in Australia and help 400 children a week. It's the way of the future, and will be vastly increased in the new campus.
Although Royal Far West does receive some State and Federal government funding, the charity needs to raise a lot of its own income. At present that's mainly from donations, although the new Wentworth St centre has smart new conference rooms and gathering spaces for hire. And in Drummond House next door, reasonably priced accomodation is available for rent on weekends and during school holidays. But it's not enough.
"We're a charity," Ms Emery said. "We always want to do more. There are so many kids out there that we want to help. If we can't intervene when they're young, many of them don't engage in school, don't finish, don't get proper jobs, and end up on the street or at the police station. If we don't do it, who will?"
She said that while the charity will keep its Manly site, which is its biggest asset, adding retail and residential units would enormously help its income stream. At the same time the organisation is determined to deliver something "absolutely beautiful and iconic" to rejuvenate the south end of the beach.
A DA is expected to be lodged in the next two years with plenty of community consultation along the way.
Aug 22: More details have emerged on redevelopment possibilities. They include independent leasehold oceanfront units for the over 55s, “high integrity” restaurants, a health centre, childcare centre and even a 24-hour triage centre. More information here.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.