Surry Hills Suburb Transformation
Sydney’s Surry Hills was once busy with the booming industrial trades of the early 20th century amid neglected terrace houses occupied by impoverished students and lodgers. But the increasingly desirable city-fringe locality, only a walk or light rail ride from Sydney’s CBD, is now continuing its trajectory as a yuppified suburb into 2020.
The suburb has seen many of the heritage warehouses vacated by the rag trade skillfully converted into apartment buildings.
While you still see the occasional fashion-laden trolley being wheeled through the streets, David Servi, of Spencer & Servi, who has been selling in the suburb for 35 years, reckons the trade won’t be present for much longer.
Other thriving industries have completely disappeared in the ever-transforming suburb. The Griffiths Teas building on Wentworth Avenue helped elevate penthouse prices to $4 million in 2017.
Nearby, the conversion of the older Edwards & Co Tea warehouse, where prices for an apartment recently hit $3.55 million, transformed the seedy, narrow streets into the site of New York-style residential opportunities.
Next door the Droga family commissioned Neil Durbach and Camilla Block of Durbach Block Jaggers to undertake a conversion of a warehouse known as Project A, which was awarded two of Australia’s most prestigious architectural accolades – the Wilkinson Award in 1997 and the Robin Boyd award a year later.
The opportunity for apartment developers these days lies mostly in replacing the nondescript office buildings that were built after the war. In the latest conversion, former offices in Cooper Street became the eight-storey Calibre complex, a resplendent apartment project designed by Koichi Takada and featuring the current trend for curved exterior facades.
BresicWhitney agents Ivan Bresic and Christopher Breedon have a $5.5 million guide – a suburb record – for the recently completed slick white penthouse that crowns the complex. The two-level apartment with 165sq m of internal space has three bedrooms, including a master suite with walk-in wardrobe and ensuite.
The top level is the rooftop, accessed by lift and dedicated to entertaining. It features a plunge pool, barbecue kitchen, outdoor shower and views of the city skyline. Takada described the Calibre building, which comprises 18 apartments, as an “urban forest” given the amount of decorative timber used throughout. The block was developed by Icon Oceania, headed by Nico Tjen.
Late last year the Surry Hills apartment sale price record was broken when a threelevel penthouse further up Cooper Street sold for $5.05 million through Walter Burfitt-Williams at McGrath Estate Agents. “The premium Surry Hills apartment market has become more sophisticated and refined, with buyers reacting excitedly to properties that push boundaries in terms of both aesthetic and bespoke finish”, Burfitt-Williams says.
He adds that during the marketing he uncovered a number of clients who are prepared to pay what it takes for something a bit special and unique.
The three-bedroom duplex apartment, with 415sq m of indoor and outdoor space, was bought by Jillian Gower, wife of former Goldmans Sachs banker and founding partner of venture capital giant Nexus, Philip Moffitt. Developer Eddie Bechara created the block of just two apartments after buying what had been a smash repair workshop for $1.62 million in 2009. The ground-level space fetched $3.55 million.
On Bourke Street, developer Luke Caplis secured an off-the-plan sale in his boutique project of just four apartments, On Bourke, for $2.9 million. The project has neared completion, with settlements imminent. There is an offering for sale through BresicWhitney with a guide of $2.2 million in the William Smart-designed complex which consists of just four whole-floor apartments. The top storey appears as a continuation of the neighbouring terrace house chimneys. The facade also reflects the surroundings, with a dark bronze fence and balustrades referencing the metal fretwork of the nearby terraces. The recently completed Golf House sits on the northern tip of Surry Hills, while at the other end, bordering Redfern, Toga is building Surry Hills Village. With some 154 apartments, it will rank among the company’s bigger projects.
Toga has been marketing its Surry Hills offerings, which include apartments priced at $24,000 per square metre, as located close to an incredible density of dining and social venues. A Toga spokesperson has confirmed an Australian expatriate based in the US has snapped up the penthouse for just under $6 million, well ahead of its expected completion in 2023. The northeast-facing, three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment has 279sq m of living space, including 65sq m of balcony with city views. It also has double parking in the garage. The adjacent $4.5 million penthouse is still available.
Located on the corner of Cleveland and Baptist Streets, the apartments, designed by SJB and BKH, cost in the range of $1 million per bedroom, with one-bedders averaging $1.03 million two-bedders $2.09 million and three bedders $2.87 million. The Golf House, a collaboration between architect Peter Israel of PTI Architecture and interior designer Collette Dinnigan, was for decades the Sydney landmark Sharpie’s Golf House. The building was demolished rather than added to, and the copper-swathed Elizabeth Street site now holds 45 apartments complete with floor-to-ceiling window panelling and doors opening onto balconies.
Late last year a local developer spent $8.585 million on one of the last vacant sites at the eastern edge of Surry Hills, on the corner of Flinders and South Dowling Streets, offered with a SJB-approved design. The $11 million building plans comprise 24 apartments, ground floor retail spaces and 13 parking spaces in the basement. Richardson & Wrench selling agent Conor Arnold had seven registered bidders for the site, which is adjacent to the eastern distributor ventilation shaft.