Corumbene’s leap of faith

Philp Lighton Architects’ plan for the Corumbene Care
development at Willow Court. Click image to enlarge.

CORUMBENE’S $5 million project at Willow Court has been described as a “leap of faith” by the organisation’s chief executive.

Speaking on ABC radio, Corumbene Care’s Damien Jacobs said the organisation saw itself as a facilitator, not a developer.

In an interview the day after Corumbene’s plans were made public last week, Mr Jacobs said Corumbene had been focused on aged care for more than 50 years but it was starting to notice gaps in service provision in the wider community.

“We’re extending as a community organisation, so not just over-65 programs, it’s more about health and wellbeing for the community, allied health and other services that we feel that we can fill the gaps,” Mr Jacobs said.

“We’re growing and we are looking at new sites and facilities as well, but we also see that there’s gaps in the community, ageing infrastructure with a lot of health services in the area, so we think that … rather than a developer, we’re a facilitator in bringing those services together.”

Mr Jacobs said Corumbene planned to offer a range of health and wellbeing services from the pair of two-storey red brick buildings – known as Derwent and Esperance houses – on The Avenue at Willow Court, adjacent to the Woolworths supermarket. “We are only looking at a portion of that building to start with, but then it would be a staged process looking at low cost accommodation, possibly child care. [We are] looking at some other state services that could be delivered on the site as well.”

Corumbene Care proposes to convert Willow Court’s Esperance,
left, and Derwent buildings into a health and wellbeing centre.

While most people are accustomed to the view of the back of the buildings from The Avenue, Mr Jacobs said they were “amazingly beautiful” from the front, as well as being structurally sound. It is proposed to remove a 1970s addition from the front of one of the buildings.

Noting that the buildings were not among those owned by the Derwent Valley Council, Mr Jacobs said the ownership situation was complicated. “It’s been a rather convoluted legal process to secure the site. We’re still working through that,” Mr Jacobs told interviewer Leon Compton.

He said the site in question had been in private ownership but was now in liquidation. “There’s a legal process behind that, that’s extended and protracted the process for acquiring it,” he said. “We’ve taken a long term strategy and a leap of faith I suppose in being able to acquire the site. So we’ve stumped up the funds to put in the development [application]. We would have acquired it probably [in the] middle of last year had not there been this extended legal process but we believe we’re getting pretty close to the end of that now.”

Mr Jacobs said the site will not be cheap to refurbish and will need government funding assistance. Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw said he shared Corumbene’s confidence that government assistance would be forthcoming, despite a lack of support from the State Government to date. “I’m confident from what Damien and the board have told us that they will get the job done,” Cr Shaw said.

The development application documents can be read in the public notices section of the Derwent Valley Council website.

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