The Plan To Turn Forgotten Suburb Into Australia's New Party Hub
A neglected corner of Sydney which rattles with airport noise could be transformed into one of the country's best nightlife areas, under an ambitious plan to revitalise the city's battered reputation for fun.
As Sydney emerges from its post-lockouts hangover, nightlife identities and politicians are brainstorming how to resurrect its party scene.
The city council is looking to refresh the inner west area of North Alexandria and transform it into a party district.
Bordered by Redfern, Sydenham and Kensington, and butted up against the northern edge of Sydney's international airport, Alexandria is not exactly booming right now.
A largely industrial zone of car dealers, wholesalers, warehouses and corporate facilities, the area under a flight path is also home to a growing number of apartment blocks as developers take advantage of its proximity to the city.
Alexandria is also a key part of the City of Sydney's late-night development cultural plan, with proposals including a new 24-hour precinct of arts, cultural and entertainment options in a set of heritage warehouses.
"The area’s industrial character, proximity to existing and future public transport services, and distance from residential areas make it ideal for live performance, creative and cultural uses," the council said in May.
At the time Michael Rodrigues, chair of the Night-Time Industries Association, said Sydney should "pull every lever possible to bring a vibrant, diverse, safe and fun nightlife back to our city."
In a July submission to the NSW government's lockout laws inquiry, the council claimed 2.5 million fewer young people visited the city since the laws came in, costing the state $1.4 billion.
Other proposals to make Sydney "a 24-hour city" included round-the-clock trading across the city centre, allowing businesses on major streets to trade until 2am, new late areas in other revitalised suburbs like Barangaroo and Green Square, and expanding current late trading in Surry Hills and Chippendale.
But it's the plan to radically reshape North Alexandria, taking it from a little-used business area to a vibrant party centre, which could have the most impact on reviving Sydney's nightlife reputation.
Sydney deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully told 10 daily she envisages breweries, bars, dance clubs, music venues and restaurants filling the area, comparing the vision to that which transformed New York City's meatpacking district from an unsightly corner to a nightlife hotspot.
"There's so many more people living and working in that area but they don't have a dedicated nightlife area," she said, of the burgeoning area around Green Square and Mascot.
"We wanted to find a place without a whole lot of residents, because there's that conflict naturally with music and more people in an area. It's about keeping those places where we don't have too much residential areas, where we can have some daytime light industrial or commercial, and at night, more bars and venues."
Local business owners are behind it.
"It's a great idea," Simon Osborn, managing director at Alexandria's Rocks Brewing company, told 10 daily.
"If they're going to look at 24-hour licenses, I think we should consider it."
We'd be mad not to.
Historically populated with industrial spaces, and away from dense residential areas, Alexandria has been a hotspot for warehouse parties and raves.
It is that enviable mix of distance from suburban homes, but proximity to transport options, which has the area earmarked as Sydney's new entertainment hub.
Already a few popular breweries and cafes call the area home, including Sonoma, the Grounds of Alexandria and Yulli's Brews, but the council hopes to encourage more.
"Having a healthy nightlife around here would be awesome. There's nobody to disturb," Osborn said. His brewery has been in Alexandria since 2014, and he said the area could do with a fresh coat of paint.
"It's due for new life ... it's a positive move. There's plenty of transport options around here, we've also got Westconnex down the road."
"There's lots of opportunity, there's more workers and more money coming in."
Shelley Bishop, studio manager at Alexandria's long-running Studio 301 recording and event space, said she'd love to see the suburb revitalised.
She pointed to developments in nearby Green Square and Mascot, saying those new residents would need somewhere to enjoy themselves -- and said neighbouring Alexandria was primed to accept that responsibility.
"It's such a unique part of the city ... it's a hot pocket area, it's going to boom and it's not being utilised," she told 10 daily.
Look at Marrickville and what's happened there, what was dead factory space being expanded.
While there are no rail stations directly in the suburb, Alexandria is serviced by nearby Green Square and Mascot stations, within walking distance. The council also noted new Sydney Metro developments at Waterloo and Sydenham would help transport people to and from the area.
The ongoing Green Square upgrade is already revitalising parts of Alexandria as part of a $13 billion project to radically redesign the Moore Park-adjacent strip.
Karen Levin, treasurer of the South Sydney Business Chamber, pointed to that plan as a model for how Alexandria could be similarly spruced up -- but said simply turning the suburb into a nightlife hotspot may not be the answer.
"Throwing bars and clubs into an area doesn't necessarily make it work," she told 10 daily.
"The area is very disjointed. It's wonderful to see the buildings going up ... but I'm not sure throwing nightlife into the area would make it work."
Levin said busy roads and connections to the airport made Alexandria a bustling transport corridor and wondered how that would mix with nightclubs and alcohol.
"I'd rather see some clothing shops or factory outlets because, for most people in that area, shopping is hard," she said.
"People go to Broadway or Bondi Junction. They should look at movie theatres and restaurants too."
Levin also claimed rents in the area were already going up, forcing people to move, and said further development should be balanced against its effect on long-term residents.
"It needs to be really planned properly, with community support," she said.