I don’t get a lot of mail these days. With the exception of cards, everything personal comes via email. And I’ve managed to change most of my paper bills to electronic distribution. Most of my snail mail seems to consist of “official things” like development applications. I wonder when City of Sydney, which is very “environmental friendly” will move to electronic distribution of those? But tonight, as I came home there was something in my letterbox which gave me a smile.
It was a letter from someone who is planning to submit a development application. They were giving us a “heads up” about their forthcoming application, explaining they run a similar establishment in another residential area, and they’ve found early and regular engagement with the community has worked for them. It was a welcome change from the usual development application notice from City of Sydney which tells me such and such down the street plans to make an alteration to their bathroom.
More than the “heads up” notice, I was also pleased to see they’re planning a North African restaurant. Excellent. That’s just what Surry Hills needs. We have just about every type of cuisine you might imagine, and more than our fair share of Turkish, Lebanese and Indian, but there are some gaps, and I’m sure North African will be a welcome addition to the area.
Having lived in Surry Hills for fifteen years, it’s been fascinating to watch the changes. Fifteen years ago, Bourke Street and Crown Street were both two-way streets. We had a few restaurants, though nothing you’d get too excited about: mostly I’d wander up to Oxford Street if I wanted something special to eat. That, of course, was when Oxford Street was still reasonably lively with restaurants, and not just queues to get into nightclubs. Back then, the Surry Hills Mall was still called “The Redfern Mall”. It was in the days when The Clock Hotel still had a gay bar out the back – The Stronghold (known as The Stranglehold) – and a bottle-shop out the front. In fact, it was a bottle-shop where I once experienced an armed-robbery, something I’ve never told my family, since I know they would have worried.
These days, Surry Hills is all a bit gentrified. It’s all one way traffic and cycle-ways these days. And the shops have all changed. In the last couple of years, for example, the charcoal chicken shop, has closed, the regular bakery has moved to a cheaper location, and the Bourke Street bakery has moved in with its long queues on the weekend, and we now have more gourmet grocers than you could possibly imagine.
I still love the area. I love being close to work. I love the cultural diversity of the area. I love the sense of “history” you find as you walk around the area. And I love the street in which I live. It has a park. It has terrace houses. It has a couple of small apartment blocks. And since 2006, Lachlan Murdoch has been one of the neighbours, though I’ve yet to actually see him. And I love that, development application pending, we may soon have a North African restaurant, whatever that means.