Alexandria: The suburb in transition on the inner-city fringe

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 Bake Bar Bakery is one of the many cafes and restaurants to open in the Alexandria area in the last five years.The Bake Bar Bakery is one of the many cafes and restaurants to open in the Alexandria area in the last five years. Photo: Bake Bar

“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.

A leafy street in Alexandria.A leafy street in Alexandria. Photo: City of Sydney

“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.

Mecca Cafe in Alexandria.Mecca Cafe in Alexandria. Photo: Ben Rushton

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.”

Architects from SJB will convert the heritage warehouses with sawtooth façades into The Gentry - a luxury collection of terraces.Architects from SJB will convert the heritage warehouses with sawtooth façades into The Gentry – a luxury collection of terraces. Photo: Thirdi Group

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.

Each of the townhouses at the Gentry will have their own private rooftop garden with an outdoor barbecue and theatre.Each of the townhouses at the Gentry will have their own private rooftop garden with an outdoor barbecue and theatre. Photo: Thirdi Group

“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.”

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