Tim Moore is probably one of the few people in Sydney to describe aircraft noise as “an asset”.
“It’s a feature of the area,” yells Marrickville Council’s director of planning and environmental services as an A380 screeches low overhead. “That’s what makes this possible.”
Mr Moore is standing in the middle of a stretch of flood-prone industrial land next to Sydenham Station.
Andrew Fineran and Chris Sidwa, of Batch Brewing Company. Photo: Louie Douvis
The 20-hectare precinct is at the centre of the council’s plans to do what has been long mooted for Parramatta Road and largely floundered at Eveleigh: foster industries squeezed by inner Sydney’s insatiable drive for apartments.
The council is proposing to build on the mix of breweries, music venues and creative spaces that have already sprung up where – thanks to factors like flooding and the flight path – residential development has long since left.
“It’s going to have industry knocking off at five and perhaps live music starting at eight and a bit of stuff in between,” said Mr Moore of an area both well-serviced by transport and beyond the boundaries of the lockout laws.
“You want the timber yards to stay and coexist alongside a bar.”
Work underway at Makerspace & Company. Photo: Louie Douvis
Dubbed the Sydenham Station Creative Hub, the council’s plan is to change the area’s general industrial zoning to light industrial. That will allow the existing network of warehouses to support a new range of small bars, cafes and restaurants.
If the zoning progresses within the next 12 months, the second stage of the council’s plan would see the streets and lanes left behind from the area’s turn-of-the-century residential subdivision made more pedestrian-friendly through the addition of street trees and traffic-calming measures.
One of the proposed precinct’s laneways. Photo: Louie Douvis
“On a Friday evening you’ll notice there’s a procession of people going to Batch [Brewing Company] around the corner, and it really pops,” Marrickville’s deputy mayor Rosana Tyler said.
“It would be nice to see a bit more of that.”
The University of Sydney’s Professor Ed Blakely, who partnered Marrickville with Brooklyn as part of the US Studies Centre’s Future Cities Program, said the likely success of the proposed precinct hinged on the fact that many of the industries the council was seeking to attract were already moving in.
“Around the world, most of the artificial ones have failed,” said Professor Blakely, who cited long-standing plans for a technology hub at Eveleigh’s Australian Technology Park as one such example.
“They’re too glitzy, they attract the high-end companies, the established companies, which almost drives out the little guy.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Go Get co-founder Bruce Jeffreys. Mr Jeffreys sits on the board of Makerspace & Company, a shared creative warehouse space set up inside the mooted Sydenham precinct in September.
“Innovation hubs are promulgated through government and the university sector and they’re the least likely to foster innovation because they’re large hierarchical organisations,” said Mr Jeffreys, who urged the council not to be too prescriptive as its proposal developed.
“People know what they need to do, they just don’t have the places to do it.”
Professor Blakely also warned the plan needed to secure the support of local landowners, who he said must resist the urge to “kill the goose”.
“I’ve seen it in Brisbane and so forth in the Valley, as soon as the area is identified the rents go through the roof and push out the artistic and creative people who started the renaissance,” he said.
The council’s plan, now open for public comment, has been welcomed by Batch’s co-owner Andrew Fineran, whose brewery has become a drawcard since setting up on Sydenham Road almost three years ago.
The area could become Sydney’s Brooklyn, “with a little bit of TLC,” Mr Fineran said.