The Sydenham Station Creative Hub is an example of planning innovation at its very best—an approach that thinks outside the box to integrate established industrial properties with exciting new businesses, businesses such as Batch Brewing Company.
Of all the businesses to get off the ground and make a success of it, the least likely would have to be the one in which the owners met on a lacrosse field. First, who plays lacrosse? And secondly, why would young people choose to start a business in a climate where we know 60 per cent of small businesses fail?
Despite the odds—and their unusual beginnings—Chris and Andrew have made Batch Brewery a success, a huge success. Theirs is a popular micro-brewery and tasting bar, run from a converted smash repairs garage on a busy street in Marrickville. They employ an impressive 17 staff and their beer is regularly served in more than 150 venues across Sydney.
Andrew is a local, raising his family in Dulwich Hill, and instantly saw the potential of the sparse industrial zone bordered by Victoria Road, Marrickville Road and Sydenham Station.
The area is a mix of factories and warehouses, the sound of heavy trucks on Sydenham Road interrupted only by the roar of planes overhead. This sounds far from ideal, but, surprisingly, they are not alone: Hidden amongst the industrial laundries, car yards and factories, there is a barber shop, a multitude of coffee shops, a theatre and art gallery, and lots of fellow micro‑brewers. A little further out, there is even an axe-throwing facility—I kid you not.
This is the new inner west, a community of migrants, families, workers in industrial estates and, yes, lots of hipster craft brewers, all living and working side by side. It is an unlikely success, but a success nonetheless. I am proud to have championed and to continue to champion the local council's plan to harness this potential by rezoning this area to light industrial while supporting creative industries and small businesses like Batch Brewing to build a night-time economy, all the while protecting the industrial businesses already there.
The aspects of the neighbourhood that appealed to Andrew and Chris also make it ideal for a new entertainment precinct: A variety of premises can be adapted, one of the busiest train stations is on their doorstep and there is easy access to the fast-growing and rapidly expanding suburbs of the inner west.
The precinct will allow creative industries to use spaces in warehouses and factories, even potentially temporarily in the evenings. Increased activity will be teamed with council's commitment to new lighting, traffic calming, greening of the space and generally making it more pedestrian friendly—all the while supporting artists and creative workers working with potential live music venues.
It will support existing businesses in Marrickville, Sydenham and Tempe by bringing more people to the area.
Chris and Andrew have many factory workers who drop into the brewery after work to taste their latest brew and they regularly use local businesses for their own needs. In fact, the furniture maker across the road made their tap decals and the laser cutter further down has helped them with marketing.
This is the truly fascinating thing about the precinct: First, it builds upon what is already happening and, secondly, it is bucking the trend of the usual gentrification. This is not about shuffling the old industries on to make way for a hipster paradise. Instead, the precinct is about unlocking the potential of the existing community and recognising that if we think outside of the box, we can support and grow all kinds of local businesses.
Thirdly, the concept sought to make lemonade from a particularly sour lemon of life underneath the flight path. Intensive residential development would not work because of the noise and the fact that planes and tall buildings do not mix.
It demonstrates that we can revitalise suburbs without the one-size-fits-all residential development favoured by the Baird Government.
It stands in stark contrast to this Government's uncreative, one-size-fits-all, paint-by-the-numbers approach to density along the Sydenham to Bankstown line. It also contrasts with other top‑down planning approaches that leave us with unfortunate, bland entertainment precincts like Darling Harbour and Fox Studios.
Fourthly, it demonstrates that we are taking steps towards being a truly global city in which vibrant suburbs offer a chance to see a show, taste local beers, visit an art gallery or two, and finish up with live music at the bowlo.
In this precinct, we recognise the importance of a vibrant nightlife, and of making new spaces for creative industries and artists to grow.
It also demonstrates that we still live in a city where it is possible to get a few drinks, to listen to live music and to get home safely.
Successes often emerge in the most unlikely of places, including lacrosse fields and overlooked industrial zones on the outskirts of our suburbs. Brewers Andrew and Chris took a chance on a warehouse next to a busy road and have made a success of it.
I am excited about what this precinct offers for the future of the inner west, and I back it all the way.