Myth busting: Marrickville is the new Paddington
“Ya wanna know how Paddington went upmarket? A couple of queers moved in and started renovating – the rest is history.”
It’s the start of the last property boom and Paddington is expensive but not overly inaccessible for Sydney standards. At one photo-shoot a flamboyant character is preparing his property for sale, a lapdog posing for pictures.
“Queens made Paddington go all fancy,” he says. It was rundown and we gave it art, fashion, colour and life. Suddenly everyone wanted to live here.”
Around the same time an SMH article says: Marrickville will be the new Paddington. “Buy here and double your money in six years,” says one pundit. “It feels like Paddington in the 1970s.”
According to these ‘experts’ our suburbs transform with people power, neighbourhood pride, and a sense of community. They’re right. But now around 8 years on (a full property cycle), is Marrickville the new Paddington?
In 2010 the Sydney median house price was $600,000. In Marrickville, a tidy unit would set you back around $400,000 or so. And most of the bread-and-butter city houses fell in the $600,000s or $700,000s that year.
It’s subjective but let’s call it one of the ‘affordable’ suburbs within 10km of the CBD. The ‘cheap’ Inner West wasn’t on anybody’s radar let alone Marrickville. If you were one of the savvy ones breaking into Marrickville, you were getting an old house that needed some love in a neighbourhood dotted with factories and warehouses, and only a handful of cafes and leisure spots.
Young families, inner-city progressives and creative businesses flocked there. Now, the median unit cost is $750,000 and houses are more than $1.4 million – more than the Sydney median.
Jacqui Blanke from Inner West based conveyancing firm uConvey jumped on the upswing, buying in 2012.
“I was 100% certain it was going to be something special and was trying to make the move across,” she says. “We’ve gone pretty close… but plenty of homes definitely doubled in that period.”
Adjoining suburbs saw similar explosions in price, but perhaps not with the emotion that was driving Marrickville. The Paddington-like escalations had arrived. But ask any local and the Paddo/Marrickville comparisons stop there.
“You could always see Marrickville was changing and fostering new life,” Jacqui says. “The cafes and restaurants are always a sign of change, but its multiculturalism stayed which is good to see. So it might resemble Paddington now but its edges are less refined.
“Paddington isn’t as multicultural, it’s more affluent, more Anglo-Australian. In Marrickville the Middle Eastern, Italian, Vietnamese and Greek have stayed on. A lot of them are long-term residents who have benefited from growth in what was traditionally a very poor area.”
It’s this vibrancy and colour that Marrickville locals support with pride. A badge of honour. Anyone suggesting development might kill that culture is quickly corrected.
“The local community here is so green in terms of politics, they’ll fight every step of the way to preserve this neighbourhood,” Jacqui says. “They fight to allow small breweries and to save live music venues, because all of these people still work and live in Marrickville.”
New Marrickville locals Rachel and Dom Sebastian agree. They bought in just three months ago after a 12-month stint renting in Coogee, and years of rent in Paddington, Redfern and Surry Hills.
They were looking for something affordable in comparison to other city suburbs and were drawn to Marrickville for its creative streak. And after living in Paddington, they don’t see the similarities.
“I can see how people think it’s so up-and-coming,” Rachel says. “But it is different.
“Marrickville is much more chilled and relaxed with a stronger community, street parties, the neighbours are all friends, and newcomers are welcomed.
“Coming from Coogee I guess we didn’t feel like we fit in as much there like we do at the bars here like the Henson (pub) or the local brewery pop-ups and creative community like Makerspace.”
Defence of community runs deep here. Big chains and department stores are still outnumbered, and the local market is one of the inner city’s busiest. It’s how it’s always been done.
“I think the local people rebel and question change because there’s such an active community here,” Rachel says. “People grumbled about Merrivale buying the Vic on the Park and people have spoken out against the big Mirvac developments. But I think that’s what’s so great.
“We wouldn’t be able to get what we bought anywhere else – a three-bedroom house with studio out the back and a garden? We’ve been in a 2-bedroom apartment up until now.
“We wouldn’t even be able to rent this somewhere else.”
Tomorrow’s hotspots of capital growth lie in these fringe suburbs, the up-and-comers that are transforming through urban renewal and new infrastructure.
But the factor you can’t measure so easily – community pride – sets the best ones apart.
As a case study, Marrickville is Paddington only in terms of its rapid rise. For everything else, the myth seems busted.