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Old meets new: Future proofing with a heritage twist at The Gentry Written by Domain.com.au
Step inside the heritage façade of The Gentry, an assemblage of brick, sandblasted glazing and stainless steel, and it will feel, all at once, like a mid-century, modern-day masterpiece.
This is the sort of innovated brilliance that will enhance the way residents of The Gentry, a Thirdi Group development in Alexandria, go about their daily lives. Thirdi Group’s director of sales and marketing, Luke Berry, says advancements in home technology helped influence the design of the project, which is in line with today’s push toward more personalised interiors.
“On the tech front, our approach to home automation is based on a Google Android system and the AI [Artificial Intelligence] is Cloud-based so it stores the artificial intelligence of you as the home owner in the Cloud,” says Berry.
“The technology will raise the blinds in summer, turn the air conditioning on or start warming the space so that by the time you pull into your garage you are not pulling into a dark and cold space.”
Berry says while The Gentry’s home automation itself is not yet equipped to whip up a large feast on its own, it might soon be able to turn coffee machines on and pour the perfect piccolo. Berry says he is working with home automation providers toward further enhancing the app’s capabilities to anticipate the needs of the homeowner.
Berry likens the technology to J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System), the computerised AI developed to manage everything in comic book superhero Ironman’s life.
“The challenge I’ve set my team is to be able to program the coffee machine to make yourself a coffee to time with when you get out of bed or arrive home from work. We are working towards that and we are not too far away from achieving it,” he says.
“Technology has revamped how The Gentry was designed and Thirdi is passionate about pushing for more innovative interfaces that make an incredible impact on the way we live.”
Berry says in addition to being able to control lighting, security, wireless entertainment and climate control at the tap of an app, residents of The Gentry will benefit from the installation of a Tesla Powerwall.
“The home will have the latest generation energy technology in order to learn the habits of the home user,” he explains. “It will be able to research the weather and, if a hot day is predicted, it will store the energy in the battery and turn the air-conditioning on using off-peak power to cool the home before you get home.”
But while delivering the latest in home automation and energy technology, The Gentry is maintaining its ties to the past via its heritage façade – something that Berry is proud of.
Architectural firm SJB were hired to design the contemporary conversion of the exterior, and Lawless & Meyerson for the interiors.
SJB celebrated the building’s light industrial history by preserving the exterior façade. While on the inside, Lawless & Meyerson have designed industrial style kitchens with integrated appliance packages, stone benchtops, stainless steel splashbacks and large format concrete tiles also play on its heritage past.
“I will be able to drive past The Gentry in 10 years and those heritage elements will still be there,” Berry predicts. “To be able to seamlessly mesh old and new and to build a beautiful home that will last the ages is a fantastic achievement.”
SJB associate and architect Sevda Cetin agrees, and adds while embracing technology is key to future-proofing a building with a heritage past, there’s also an eagerness to make such a space greener.
“There’s definitely a current movement toward making our urban spaces a lot greener. It’s been proven that it gives people a quality of life, which is definitely looking toward the future,” Cetin says.
“A lot of the architectural implications are quite subtle. We used sandblasted glazing extensively throughout the project, which is undulating in form and allows us to achieve texture. The sandblasted treatment allows for privacy, while still allowing light to come into the interiors.”
Cetin says the company has also used grass-reinforced concrete [GRC] planters; a great technological improvement as they negate the need for waterproofing, which makes landscaping more financially attractive.
She also believes having everything at the touch of a button is very attractive to potential buyers.
“We embrace technology, but not at the detriment of the architecture. Everything that has been done to The Gentry enhances the liveability. We are so technologically bound to our iPads and iPhones that to have that integrated into your home is definitely a plus for any buyer.”
Alexandria: The suburb in transition on the inner-city fringe Written by Carla Grossetti, Allhomes.com.au
A quick scroll through the Bake Bar’s coolly curated Instagram feed is all the proof required that Alexandria is a neighbourhood in transition.
“Alexandria has changed a lot since we opened here three-and-a-half years ago,” says co-owner Rafi Aruch.
“Opening up a giant commercial kitchen and a cafe in Alexandria was a no-brainer. We wanted to increase production, and from a logistics point of view it has been fantastic because of its central location,” says Aruch, who also has Bake Bar Bakery outlets in Randwick and Double Bay.
“The demographic in Alexandria has changed a lot. It’s got added appeal because of the fact so many people have moved here to work and study,” he adds.
“The people who now call Alexandria home love the location and they are always out and about looking for places to eat and drink and hang out and that has changed the face of the suburb.”
Cool cultural hub
Like many of the formerly scruffy, post-industrial areas of Sydney, the inner-south was always going to be “a prime target” for redevelopment because of its location and range of local amenities. That’s according to Domain’s chief economist Dr Andrew Wilson, who predicts the suburb will continue to prove popular thanks to its location near to transport, good schools, parks, universities and other infrastructure.
“Alexandria is obviously primed for higher density living due to its proximity to the CBD and education precinct. It’s the first cab off the rank in terms of that spread downward from Redfern and Marrickville and it will continue to grow because of our never-ending quench for property close to the CBD,” Wilson says.
“When we look at this suburb, the market has been the most consistent since rates started falling in 2011. Affordability was the first driver for the demand for higher-density dwellings. That suburban dream of the white-picket fence becomes less desirable when it remains so expensive.”
A fringe festival
Wilson says suburbs on the fringe of Sydney’s CBD are viewed as desirable places to live as they transform into walkable communities dotted with galleries, quirky design spaces for creatives and cult cafes.
It’s that village vibe that also inspired Alan Thompson to open Barista + Cook on the fringes of Alexandria. This dedicated brew bar is where you will find everyone from cashed-up cool kids to commuters sipping on cold-drip brews by day and enjoying craft beers and burgers on Friday nights.
“In the year that I’ve lived and worked in this area, I’ve seen Alexandria soften. There’s more greenery and there are people walking around and it feels more complete,” says Thompson, a former international DJ.
“There are apartments above us and throughout the day the clientele changes from tradies and commuters to friends, mums with bubs and people conducting business. We are a destination cafe but we are also very representative of the local demographic.”
The Gentry-fication of Alexandria
While Alexandria’s bars, restaurants, cafes and boutiques are a big part of the suburb’s altered landscape, dramatic changes are also being seen as boutique developments, such as 37-townhouse project The Gentry, bring homes to the suburb that embrace its industrial charm.
Thirdi Property Group’s director of sales and marketing Luke Berry says the gentrification of Alexandria will be complete with The Gentry in William St. He describes the old building as a beloved neighbourhood landmark, which has had several tenancies – from a warehouse where ballet shoes were made, to a mechanic who specialised in restoring vintage cars.
“When we looked at this location we knew we could add to the gentrification of the suburb in a positive way,” says Berry.
“Alexandria is moving away from that industrial nothingness wasteland into an area where there is an eclectic mix of mixed use developments, cafes, and retail all spread out across the suburb.”
Thirdi has engaged the architects at SJB to convert the heritage warehouses with sawtooth facades into a luxury collection of terraces, each with their own private rooftop garden with an outdoor barbecue and theatre.
“We are nodding to the gentrification of the suburb in a positive way,” Berry explains. “It’s about taking it from old to new. When we looked at this building and its heritage and saw its raw beauty it was like looking at a blank canvas.
“People who are buying into these areas don’t want to be part of a master-planned community with no soul. They want character and history. The 37 Torrens-titled townhouses are located on a 3300-square-metre plot in Alexandria that embraces the area’s light industrial history.”
The third housing type that everyone’s talking about Written by Carla Grossetti, Domain.com.au
Owning a townhouse has become the new Aussie dream. That’s according to social demographer Mark McCrindle, of McCrindle Research, who says rising property prices have forced many first-home buyers to adjust their expectations of buying that home with a white picket fence on a quarter-acre block.
“The townhouse option is meeting the needs of Australians not only in the suburbs of our large capitals, but across our cities in regional areas,” says McCrindle.
“Townhouses are becoming more and more popular because architects are replicating the life of a detached home into a more efficient space. People still get to have their barbecues and enjoy a bit of greenery and garden area and some townhouses even have that white picket fence, too.” McCrindle says the demographic analysis of Census data shows there has been a huge increase in townhouse living which – like apartments – appeals to two ends of the age spectrum: downsizing baby boomers and young couples and families. He says the architectural design of today’s terraces and townhouses also means they have modular flexibility to accommodate the different life stages of modern householders.
“The build quality of today’s townhouses makes them very appealing to everyone from young families to downsizers who all want to be closer to the action,” he explains.
“Whereas previous generations were about owning and accumulating and having lots of storage and a garage filled with ‘stuff’, life today is about the journey and experiences and the townhouse helps facilitate that goal because it means you are buying into a better location than you could otherwise afford.” McCrindle’s research found that townhouse living has increased by one-third since 2011, as 12.7 per cent of Australians now call a townhouse home. He points out that townhouses are most often built in inner-ring suburbs.
“If you look at where townhouse construction is taking place, it’s in suburbs like Alexandria. The location is positive as it’s closer to the employment hubs and transport connections in what we call ‘walkable communities’. The location of these communities is unbeatable,” McCrindle says.
“I’m not talking about the kind of terraces and townhouses of old. I’m talking about townhouses that have paved courtyards, plunge pools, extended verandas, open living areas and rooftop gardens.”
George Redmond, 32, and partner David Belcher, 32, spent two years searching for a detached dwelling in the eastern suburbs before they revised their hopes of buying a detached home and settled on a townhouse. Redmond, co-owner of public relations agency, Wasamedia, and Belcher, a senior manager at Hays Recruitment, says while they were willing to compromise on the size of their first home, they had fixed ideas about its location and aspect.
“When we started looking at townhouses we realised how much we liked them. Our criteria was simple: we wanted to remain in the eastern suburbs, have an open-plan layout and a backyard with a north-facing aspect,” Redmond says.
“When we found a townhouse in Queen’s Park we fell in love with it. It’s an old terrace that has been newly renovated and the layout works really well. As it turns out, a townhouse is perfect for our lifestyle. My partner and I both grew up in big houses – he’s from London, I’m from New Zealand – but the weather is so good in Sydney that we are always outside. Centennial Park is our front yard and we go to Bronte Beach all the time and the proximity to the beaches, CBD and parks is a big drawcard.” The couple, who have a one-year-old daughter, Evie, agree one of the benefits of buying a smaller townhouse or terrace is they could afford to spend more on quality furniture and fittings. Redmond says another upside is the reduced maintenance, allowing for more quality family time.
“We chose a terrace over an apartment because we feel like we have our own bit of land. Buying a terrace means we have the benefit of living in a desirable location with all the benefits of freestanding house but without the huge expense,” she says.
SJB associate and architect Sevda Cetin agrees that the look and feel of townhouses in 2017 has broadened their appeal to an increasing number of buyers. The award-winning architectural firm is behind The Gentry, a new development in Alexandria that has transformed heritage-listed warehouses into 37 luxe townhouses. Cetin says The Gentry is a nod to the gentrification of the suburb and will cater to a growing demand for larger, more luxurious townhouses.
“Townhouses are very current and very appealing to those who are looking to live within the city in a dwelling that has a very private feel,” says Cetin.
“The buyers of these contemporary townhouses will know they are getting value. There is an ever-increasing number of buyers who want something that is architecturally significant and will enhance their lifestyle.”
To the casual passer-by, Cetin says the changes to the beautiful William St development with the bowed facade will be subtle. But the growing appetite for larger and more luxurious private dwellings means SJB’s adaptive reuse of the building will see it fitted out with high-end amenities that celebrate today’s townhouse aesthetic.
“Today’s townhouse is always about the openness of plan. The SJB philosophy is that it has to appeal to the street and to the internal courtyard that is at the rear of each dwelling,” she says.
“The current warehouses once housed a factory making ballerina shoes. It’s a heritage warehouse building and so we will be maintaining the facade and building behind that existing exterior.”
Cetin believes buyers’ growing interest in townhouses is due to the fact they provide a degree of privacy not available in an apartment. She also attributes the rise in demand to more families appreciating proximity to the CBD and the sense of community that comes with high-density living.
“It used to be couples that were drawn to the inner-urban suburbs, but now it’s growing families who want to buy into an area but cannot afford a freestanding home,” she says.
“The benefits of buying a spacious townhouse in a great location with its own private courtyard is that as well as being part of a growing hub, there is a feeling of cosiness when you close the door.”
Old meets new: Future proofing with a heritage twist at The Gentry
Written by Domain.com.au | September, 2017
Alexandria: The suburb in transition on the inner-city fringe
Written by Carla Grossetti, Allhomes.com.au | September, 2017
The third housing type that everyone’s talking about
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