Rosebery: keeping life real
Affordable, industrial or city fringe: say what you want about Rosebery, it’s fast becoming a residential enclave. Great food and booze complete the picture, along with designer outlets retailing a magazine lifestyle. Rosebery is also near the multi-billion-dollar Green Square development, which will accelerate the entire area into a mixed use and residential area, a force to be reckoned with.
So will the hard edge and community aspects of Rosebery be bulldozed away? Or can Rosebery carry the can from Sydney as a converted-semi-industrial-haven? To find out we caught up with some of Rosebery’s hottest ambassadors; celeb chef Andy Allen rattling the pans at The Three Blue Ducks, stylist and ‘home whisperer’ Megan Morton of ‘The School’ and sculptor Hopi Steiner, still grinding her steel in a nearby Alexandria studio.
Megan Morton was one of the first tenants to open in The Cannery. She was a partner in the space with Koskela founded by partners Russel Koskela & Sasha Titchkosky in 2000. As we quickly found out from talking to Megan, she is a dyed-in-the-wool Rosebery fan and one of its biggest advocates.
“I travel often and Rosebery is really unique. There’s nothing you can compare it to in New York, Tokyo or Paris. In Rosebery, everything is very condensed and within easy walking distance. It is not just one single shopping centre, it has got depth and a real sense of village to it,” she says wistfully.
Megan describes a true camaraderie amongst the shop and store holders who work there, as well as meaningful connections to the older Greek and Chinese communities who’ve called Rosebery home for donkeys. While Rosebery has parks, retail, food and small batch alcohol, Megan is quickest to applaud its sense of community.
“It’s the people that make a difference in Rosebery. When people come here to visit they immediately see the line outside Archie Rose or the line outside Three Blue Ducks. You think, “Wow, we’ve attracted people that value the finer things in life. Now we have even got a nail bar!” she says.
“I think what you get in Rosebery is not a tourist destination. You get proper social networks, glorious conversations, and long lasting friendships. It’s real. It’s magic,”she says.
Back when a kitchen garden and ‘lifestyle’ workshops were still a novelty in Sydney, that certain magic was felt by fans of Koskela’s ethical design and Kitchen by Mike. Now the fairy dust has attracted the Three Blue Ducks foodie empire, who have additional outlets in Bronte and Byron Bay. They have added their brand of fresh, healthy and sustainable fare to the great food and beverage offerings like Black Star Pastry and Da Mario (of Surry Hills Pizza Mario fame).
TV chef Andy Allen says while it took them a while to work out what the locals wanted, tapping into the Rosebery trade is now a true pleasure. “We are starting to kick a few goals,” Andy says admitting the first year was kind of ‘hectic’. Andy succinctly describes how the weekday and weekend customers of Rosebery are quite distinct. “Monday to Friday there is a big worker population. They tend to be young and they want great food that’s quick and inexpensive. On the weekend the customer wants to come and spend money. They want traditional Duck’s food and a slower style of service,” Andy says.
“We are lucky too that we get so, so many business meetings here. A lot of people come from the airport to meet clients or colleagues because Rosebery is kind of half way,” he says.
Happy and busy – Andy is most excited about the food markets, and how the guys from Riley Street Garage are starting a microbrewery in the Food Market Hall. “Everything those guys touch just turns to gold so, I can’t wait.” Andy says. The Three Blue Duck’s own agenda is a plan to make their ‘cheeky kitchen garden’ even more accessible for kids.
“We saw the power of the garden up in Byron, so now we are going to make the garden more kid friendly. We love it how the mums and dads that visit us – can semi let the kids loose in the garden – and also just how strongly the kids gravitate toward it,” Andy says.
While an investment in our children’s future might be high on the agenda for the Three Blue Ducks, local sculptor Hopi Steiner is wary of the Rosebery’s future development into an apartment ghetto. Hopi’s subterranean studio where she can grind for 5 hours straight, is currently under threat thanks to the spread of new building sites.
Located in neighbouring Alexandria, she and her 20-artist mates occupy a fringe zone, that is fast being swamped with cheap housing and the kind of knock up jobs she despises.
“I’m very melancholic and romantic. I love the history of places and we don’t have a great one here in Sydney, but I believe that we should try and preserve what little is left. Just to find this studio took me 1.5 years and that was when the realisation came upon me, that Sydney was dying culturally,” Hopi says.
She describes the way galleries, artists and students who used to be housed in Darlo and Newtown by the city, are now being pushed further out. While she doesn’t mind progress and the range of new food options that have popped up like The Grounds, the cultural credentials of the new fringe suburbs worry her. “When I finally found this place in Alexandria, that’s a total gem, I was told I had only six months to enjoy it because of the Green Square Development. That was 4.5 years ago and we are still here!” she says.
While Hopi marvels at the resilience of studios like hers to survive bulldozers and brazen property developers, it’s clear to her their days are numbered. “Everything around us is being demolished, my favourite old leather warehouse is now just a facade and these cheap nasty developers are coming in and building what will be a ghetto in 15 years.” Hopi wishes that Rosebery – the nicer version of her local area will retain more of its heritage.
“Rosebery has still got a feeling, a flame. I still go there to get food. I still go there to get tools. It still has an industrial vibe and there is still life. I think because there’s nothing bigger than 20 floors. There is still an intimacy to Rosebery and some little factory conversions where people are buying factories and turning them into money making enterprises – but that are doing it in a cool way.”