It has been said that if we resist advancements in tech and innovation, we may be left behind while our communities at large move ahead. Recent years have seen swift shifts and adaptations in education and work culture. It is hard to imagine life without remote learning, work-from-home programs and all manner of food delivery services.
One nearby entity embraced future trends to an exceptional level. It may surprise you to know that this is happening more or less in our backyard. For residents of northern St. Johns County, The Link is an innovative, environmentally friendly coworking facility in Ponte Vedra that stands apart as a veritable visionary. Known for its “learn-play-think-do” philosophy, The Link boasts 22,500 square feet of creative, educational, recreational, event and office space. It is a hub on a mission to foster a sense of community interaction that is meaningful and balancing.
In terms of child learning, The Link houses Sapna Academy – a versatile learning center where kids aged 4 to 14 benefit from dynamic programming that lends itself to a self-directed experience. In his observation of arbitrary boundaries that can hinder learning, The Link’s co-founder Raghu Misra notes that “The only division that should really matter from a child’s…standpoint is curiosity to learn.” Feigned boundaries might include the subdivision where a family happens to live, socio-economic status or even a conventional academic bell schedule. “Imagine a modern-day schoolhouse where kids are grouped…by ability and interest rather than age and allowed to explore their interests and find their passion,” Raghu shares. He and his wife, Gurpreet, opened their doors to the First Coast in the summer of 2021. Prior to this, Gurpreet worked in municipal growth management following her Urban Planning studies. Raghu ran a company called Ship Express, which General Electric eventually acquired. Their youngest child is benefiting from time spent at The Link tinkering with Legos® and exploring the field of robotics.
The Link serves all ages. Some of their activity and class offerings include Pilates, fencing, STEM, performing arts and speaker series. Another feature housed on-site is the Flagler Health+ 360 Immersive Studio. It displays virtual reality environments that foster learning and entertainment. “We…are coming up with content in the Flagler Health+ 360 degree Immersive Studio in the field of technology, education, therapy, training, gaming, etc.,” relates Gurpreet.
To get the most out of these programs, locals can purchase a variety of memberships. Along these lines, Gurpreet explains that “our vision is to have activities across ages (on the first floor) as well as…a professional co-work / innovation hub on the second floor. The building has spaces that were designed to allow multiple activities to take place at the same time.” By connecting instructors, small businesses and families, various collaborations can be hosted, such as board meetings, parties and workshops.
From the moment one enters The Link, an arresting sensory experience begins. Generous natural light streams into the building thanks to several glass facades. An elephant sculpture made of tens of thousands of flips flops that washed ashore on the Indian Ocean caught my eye straight away. Similar dolphin and giraffe sculptures are strewn throughout both stories of the community hub. The 3-D sculptures were made by some 175 artists in Kenya via an entity called Ocean Sole. The Link’s environmental stewardship does not stop at recycled art pieces, though. Their commitment to sustainability can also be seen in a cutting-edge climate control system that counts the number of people in various rooms to intuitively adjust temperatures. It is also nearly impossible to leave a light on longer than needed as suites are generally dark until entry motion is detected. Our community can feel good about being part of an institution that leaves such a responsible footprint. In fact, The Link is on its way to obtaining gold-level LEED certification.
Just beyond the foyer is a stage boasting a 10×20 foot screen with versatile uses. When the space is rented, one could host an Olympic games viewing party, for instance. This stage area could also host comedians, authors, improvisers, filmmakers or musicians. The founders hope to foster an environment where these performers would not only display their work but also offer deep dives into their respective creative processes. Imagine an area high school’s film academy, for instance. Their students would ideally have opportunities to meet local professional filmmakers and discuss the framing, composition and lighting that led to the finished product on display.
It will be remarkable to see how our new Nocatee neighbors continue to make use of The Link’s offerings. This is an establishment uniquely poised to meet the demands and nuance of future innovation head-on .