Marrickville: The Surry Hills lifestyle without the price tag

Sydney buyers in search of a suburb that offers hip bars, diverse restaurants and a thriving arts scene have long gravitated towards Surry Hills – but with a current median house price of $1.68 million, the inner-eastern enclave is hardly affordable.

Perhaps that’s why savvy house-hunters are increasingly turning their attention to Marrickville, about seven kilometres west. Like Surry Hills, Marrickville is now home to scores of stylish venues and legions of fashionable young residents, but the current median house price in the semi-industrial suburb – $1.46 million – is some $200,000 less.

“Once you factor in land size, the difference is even more striking,” says Jonathan Ford, director of the Marrickville-based agency The Property Sellers. “An average terrace in Surry Hills probably has a 120-square-metre size. In Marrickville, a median house might be on 260 square metres, and it’s probably freestanding.”

Crowds peruse the Marrickville Markets on a sunny Sunday afternoon.Crowds peruse the Marrickville Markets on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Photo: James Alcock

Apartments are also attractively priced, and there are plenty of new builds in the works.

Ford compares Marrickville in 2018 to the Surry Hills of the early 2000s: an evolving urban neighbourhood where the housing stock is still cheap enough for young families to buy and for groups of students and artists to rent. Ever-rising prices in popular areas such as Newtown and Darlinghurst have thrust Marrickville into the spotlight of late, creating a westward exodus of the creative class. Effective public transport – including the train station and several bus routes that connect to Newtown and Central – is convincing more inner-city workers to make the move, too.

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“Change in the suburb has really accelerated in the past five years,” says Ford. “A lot of commercial properties that have been empty since the 1990s are being let, and they’re being occupied by food, beverage and entertainment tenancies. We’re also seeing more young businesses like artisan breweries moving into the industrial fringe.”

New addition to the area, Matinee Cafe.New addition to the area, Matinee Cafe. Photo: Janie Barrett

Marrickville’s burgeoning line-up of distinctive businesses is key to its current appeal. Anchored by hip, long-running cafes such as Cornersmith and Double Roasters and by the hugely popular Factory Theatre, which hosts live contemporary music in three rooms of varying sizes, the retail and hospitality scene has developed an offbeat personality.

One recent opening on Marrickville Road is Hypmotive, a store that stocks work by emerging visual artists and fashion designers. Hypmotive’s sleek gallery space showcases pieces by local metalsmiths, Indigenous painters and ethical clothes-makers, and there’s an upstairs studio for art workshops.

“Opening the store in Marrickville was a no-brainer for us,” says co-owner Renee Russo. “The fact that the suburb has become such a major artists’ community was a real drawcard.”

The area is known for being home to fashion designers and artists.The area is known for being home to fashion designers and artists. Photo: James Alcock

Another new arrival is Where’s Nick, a bar that specialises in naturally produced wine. Co-owner Julian Abouzeid, who opened the venue with his brother, says he wanted to set up shop in a suburb with a strong sense of community.

“Marrickville still feels like a proper neighbourhood,” he says. “We have a lot of regulars who live just around the corner, or a five-minute bus ride away. And everything here is still independently owned. The bar owners actually work in their venues – you can go and have a drink with them after work.”

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Since the end of WWII, Marrickville has welcomed waves of immigrants: first Greeks and Italians, then Vietnamese. Although the area is undoubtedly changing, these communities still have deep roots in the suburb – something that becomes apparent when you wander the streets near the train station, which are full of Vietnamese restaurants and independent grocers.

Factory Theatre, in Marrickville, which plays host to a range of contemporary music acts.Factory Theatre, in Marrickville, which plays host to a range of contemporary music acts. Photo: Quentin Jones

“You can still get your pork roll for five bucks,” says Ford. “Marrickville hasn’t gone the full Gucci just yet.”


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