Blog - Commercial
OLD HOUSE, NEW HOME: CREATIVE SYDNEY’S CONVERSION CRAZE
Sydney’s city fringe is one of the most prosperous real estate markets in the world. One industry in particular has an enduring appetite for the area like no other.
Creative organisations love to express themselves in creative spaces. The converted warehouse-style properties dotting the city fringe offer the perfect canvas. While not a new trend, creative agencies are now expanding their reach into further-flung areas like Redfern, Alexandria and Waterloo.
Why does the industrial aesthetic continue to prove a sought-after staple for the creative business?
Eric Lundberg, Director of Special Projects at TGC, has over 25 years’ experience in commercial property and specialises in the thriving city fringe market. He believes the demand for converted properties goes beyond appearances:
“Creative businesses are all about their intellectual capital,” he says. “Their office is about facilitating an inspirational environment that encourages productivity, as well as staff attraction and retention.”
The idea that culture equals retention is well establishedˆ. However, enduring interest in converted spaces hints at another theory, now fact: building cultural credibility begins with a workshop of steel and brick.
We explore the roots of conversion’s longevity, what spaces offer modern business, and what this means for the future of work culture in Sydney.
FLOURMILL STUDIOS – 3 GLADSTONE STREET, NEWTOWN
Flourmill Studios in Newtown is testament to the time-honoured appeal of adapted warehouse-style properties in Sydney. The former Crago Flour Mill has hosted artists, makers and creatives since operations ceased in 1984. The current space now encompasses 47 strata studios.
The property typifies the aesthetic driving the conversion craze. Formidable steel beams, rustic painted brickwork and original wooden trusses are embellished by surviving industrial paraphernalia like pulleys and driveshafts.
If intellectual capital equates to wealth for creative businesses, the occupants of Flourmill Studios have their coffers full.
The subdivision of the site in 2002 saw adjacent silos converted into residential apartments – a trend that continues to contribute to a developing shortage of commercial spaces today.
A waning commercial availability in areas like Surry Hills, Chippendale and Pyrmont has warehouse-hungry businesses hunting further afield, as we’ll see below.
BOHEMIA – 10 CHARLES STREET, REDFERN
Sydney media agency, Bohemia, is one business unafraid to venture beyond the traditional centrepieces of Sydney’s conversion movement.
Bohemia needed room to accommodate their growing business, upgrading from their Chippendale offices to an expansive new space in Redfern. Finding a suitable property without sacrificing centrality was no easy task.
Bohemia enjoyed the warehouse environment of their former Chippendale location. Their selection of another, larger, warehouse-style property demonstrates their dedication to the industrial aesthetic.
Renovations on 10 Charles Street will cement the building as one of the premier converted spaces in the city fringe. A brand new lift and ducted air conditioning, as well as new services and facilities, will transform its interior into the modern, campus-style working hub suited to Bohemia’s business.
THE MONKEYS – 531 SOUTH DOWLING STREET, SURRY HILLS
Warehouse-style properties allow for ‘domesticating’ offices in ways traditional commercial properties don’t. Furnished kitchens, recreational dining facilities and leisure spaces accommodate for the always-on modern employee. End-of-trip facilities like bike racks and showers are no longer relegated to the basement.
Australian advertising agency, The Monkeys, know the value of culture over cost. Their new offices at the former Sydney Antiques Centre in Surry Hills reflect an environment conducive to collaboration and creativity.
Brigitte Harbrow, of the Content team at The Monkeys, says creative businesses can’t afford anything less.
“Whispering over the water-cooler in a poky high-rise isn’t how our industry works,” Brigitte says. “If you deal in ideas and inspiration, you can’t have a restrictive office. You need room to run.”
As for staff retention and attraction, Brigitte believes in a simple formula:
“When your office feels like home, your team feels like family.”
The ground floor of the South Dowling property, occupied by The Monkeys, features exposed brick, industrial beams, large windows and concrete flooring. Brought to life by a veritable jungle of indoor plants, minimalist furniture and expansive communal areas, it did not take much for The Monkeys to make the space their own.
But it’s not only the appearance of converted spaces that contribute to their allure.
The South Dowling Street building was the epicentre of Sydney’s antiques trade for over 40 years. Seeing Prime Ministers, A-list celebrities and international film directors through its doors, the property has cultural credibility in spades.
OLD HOUSE, NEW HOME
Converted properties like those on Charles and South Dowling Streets may represent a blank canvas in the physical sense, but buildings of history come loaded with historical and cultural assets.
The opportunity for creative businesses is twofold:
1. Create a working environment employees and clients love, which promotes staff attraction, productivity and retention.
2. Own a piece of Sydney history – and become a part of it yourself.
Many find it easy to dismiss the astro-turf, sleeping pods and uber-industrial chic as nothing more than a trend. However, the sustained and spreading interest in converted properties has ingrained the aesthetic into Sydney’s contemporary working culture: one that rejects drab carpets, cubicles and conformity for creativity within conversions.
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