Friday, May 1, 2009

Hive of Non-Activity

In neighbouring Erskineville there has been a recent hullabaloo over the planned conversion of the old Sydney Mardi Gras warehouse (also known as the Hive) on Erskineville Road into a Supermarket. A very vocal and effective campaign was waged by the local pressure group 'Village Friends' - their excellent website is worth checking out - and Sydney City Council eventually rejected the application due to traffic issues and the impact on surrounding businesses. The appeal to the Land and Environment Court was also rejected in January this year.

A new Development Application has just been received by Council for a grocery store (far less threatening than a supermarket) on the same site. At first glance it seems that many of the residents' objections have been addressed; the area of the proposed grocery store  is less than 900sqm, compared with the 2138sqm of the orginal proposal, and there are only 16 car spaces envisaged. The proposal is only for a single story building which is the same as the existing building, as opposed to the previous double story plans.

The Economic Impact Assessment is the most interesting document submitted as part of the DA, explaining (or at least claiming) that the smaller grocery store will only attract locals and limited passing traffic, rather than being a destination store attracting (car based) shoppers.As anyone who lives in the area can tell you, that part of Erskinevile Road is chockers  and most times of the day and really doesn't need any more traffic. Still, at 900sqm the proposed store is only slightly smaller than King Street's Franklins (1200sqm) and Foodworks (1042sqm), neither of which are small 'grocery stores'.

So what do people think ? Does this DA go far enough in meeting the council's requirements ? Is this a positive development for Newtown/Erskineville (technically the Hive is in Newtown although most would consider it part of Erskineville) ? Let me know !

By the way, like the Hub, the Hive is available for short term rent while the DA gets processed.


  1. Friends of Erskineville have updated their website now. They are still not happy.

  2. The retailers at the village need to lift their game if they are going to garner any local support, because the ones that will be most affected by a grocery store going into the Hive just ain't cutting it.

    The baker, deli, the florist and possibly the newsagent are all fine, as are most of the cafe/restaurants. The rest of the shops there are atrocious and not serving the community needs at all. The convenience store presents like a rummage shop and even franklins has fresher fruit and better range than the Erko fruit shop - which is just appalling (thankfully, Bitton has fresher stuff than either of them, if not the range, so I often traipse down there).

    For mine, a proper grocery store will significantly increase the amenity for Erskinevillians, and probably mean less trips in the car down to Marrickville/Broadway.

  3. It also needs to be said that, whatever the solution, its time to end the dereliction on Erko rd. The old Allens Cakes site is another blight on the strip too (although this, at least, has been turned over to occasional community use).

  4. I agree with Anonymous. There is little real grocery shopping in the Erskineville area and this grocery store could replace car trips with walking trips for locals who are currently driving to Marrickville and further afield.

  5. Thanks all for your comments. I was supportive of the Village people (to coin a phrase) last time round but I'm yet to be convinced that this proposal is as bad as they say it is, and I tend to agree with Anon 1 and 3 that this could actually fill a cap and remove some car trips out of Erko.

    Also agree with Anon2 that there are too many empty shop fronts in that strip - the old TAB is another one that is crying out for a fix. I haven't seen any DAs come through on this yet.

    PS I really appreciate the comments - it would be great if you could use names - even made up ones - for directing my responses :)

  6. The comments regarding the quality of the Erskineville supermarket and fruit shop are spot on.

    I do not support inappropriate developments in congested residential areas, however the reason to oppose said developments just can not be to protect these businesses.

    I received a flyer in the letter box the other day which appeared to be from the developer, inviting residents to an information evening.

    Be interesting to see how that pans out...

  7. Word around the dog-park is that nobody really cares that much, they just want to see something done with the site - a bit different to last time when there were some strident opponents. I think people are afraid to put the Village People's noses out of joint, because Erko is such a community, but there doesn't seem to be any real depth of feeling...

  8. I don't support anything that will further congest an already heavily congested road however, something needs to be done about the availability of fresh meat and vegetables in Erskineville.

    Perhaps someone should take over the old Allan's cakes site and turn it into butcher. That, together with improvements to the existing fruit shop and "supermarket" would improve the strip immensely.

  9. re Allans Cakes - I have been told that the vets have looked at this space to expand too (as the dodgy Chinese is not going anywhere) however previous owners have had work done on the site that was not council approved so would be a planning nightmare for whoever brought the site.

  10. FOE site suggests council planners have approved and it will proceed.

    Hooray for common sense.

  11. I think the fear is about changing the village atmosphere of Erko, since it really is special. But people still need groceries, it must be said. I think there should be limits on things like: the brightness of the lights (maybe a total ban on neon? on King St too btw) the colours of the decor (muted, surely), trolleys (ban trolleys too), amount of plastic on display (minimal, and see above re. muted colours)

  12. the thing that bothers me most about this development is that it will be filled by Woolworths who will offer nothing new or valuable to the community. if anyone thinks they will gve to Erko a better deal than the local guys is kidding themselves (has anyone seen the crap fruit and vegge in the woolworths in Marrickville? - disgusting!). And not sure why anyone in Erko needs to drive out of the area to the metro etc when the foodworks is an extra 10 min walk from the hive site. Woolworths (and Coles) biz practices are insidious. Their move into the area will not be good at all. They shaft as many local businesses as possible - they have no community mindedness.

    (and the dodgy Chinese Sarah is in fact legendary)

  13. I for one support the store. I live right behind the Hive on Newman St and have pretty limited options with groceries. It seems relatively low impact and while not an ideal use of the space (would prefer something more community oriented), it's loads better than having it sit there derelict.

    And speaking of we have any news on when renovations on The Imperial will start up again? Or is that for another Mayoral post?

  14. So I've (mostly) refrained from voicing my opinion on this so far - preferring to let everyone have their say.

    In my ideal world the Hive would be put to a more imaginative use than a grocery store / supermarket - but of course this is not an ideal world; and someone has bought the building expecting to make a commercial return on it.

    The current proposal is way better than the previous one in size and scope. My biggest objection to the current proposal is that the shop will be run by Woolworth's - presumably under their new Thomas Dux brand. As Kelly pointed out above, they don't have a great track record in the way they treat local businesses - it's a crying shame the new Hive owner couldn't find a local to open up a boutique grocers there instead.

    Unfortunately Council can't reject the proposal on those grounds - we're really in the hands of the ACCC to protect us from the grocery duopoly - a job they are not doing very well at the moment IMO.

    As always, interested in comments and feedback. One positive is that finally the Hive will no longer be derelict; now to fix some of the other buildings on Erskineville Road.

  15. @mjkendall - the Courier had an update on the Imperial just this week (I read it last night). The owner is still fighting council over capacity - 400 v 800 if I remember right (will check tonight) but is planning to reopen at Xmas regardless.

    I'm with the council on the size, but disappointed that they knocked back the giant Stiletto on the roof, it would have been a great addition !

  16. @mayorofnewtown I'm with you on wishing for "a more imaginative use". It's a great building with an illustrious history that could truly become a community hub (or yes...Hive). There's been plenty of opportunity for someone to jump in, but with nobody willing to front up the cash we can't wait forever.

  17. Once this does go through, I'll be really happy to not be forced to leave the area for shopping, or to pay $2/item over retail.

    The objections are more to do with keeping competing businesses out of the area, than "preserving the community".

  18. Thanks Your Lordship, for providing space for Erskineville residents to discuss/debate our issues. This development application has been the most contentious thing in Erko in the years I have lived here.

    The 'Friends of Erskineville' organisation appears to have money, expertise and a nice website, but absolutely no understanding of democracy, debate or true community spirit. I'm sure plenty of those who were stirred into action by the 'Friends' are completely genuine in their opposition but many others felt alienated and afraid to voice their opinions. The 'Village' website, petitions and the 'Village Friends' pamphlets were full of misrepresentation and ridiculous 'the sky is falling' predictions. These totally obscured any valid arguments the Friends may have had for opposing the final DA.

    I think Erskineville could probably use a good residents association or the like, but 'Erko Village Friends' is so discredited by it's public pronouncements that I think we need to start again. Perhaps we can do it all online if the Mayor of Newtown wants to amalgamate us?

  19. i have just recently stumbled onto this site, and found everyone's comments very insightful and interesting. I am also an interior design student in her final year and was looking into the Hub and its potential to re-connect itself to the community. I am personally interested in the idea of how a space can be defined by the people who use it and vice versa, and i believe not solely the hub but the area around it to be iconic as it the energy that it creates brings it to life. It pulls people in as it has something for everyone, and through this creates a community. Now this is what i was thinking of for the Hub, because at the moment it is not solely abandoned, but i believe that it is an obstruction to the space which creates boundaries, therefore, i would love to open it up a bit, creating a more flexible space that people can make their own. i would offer a space that brings people in to chill, have their coffee, read a book, exhibit their work, a space that on the wkends can open up the the square and become part of the street culture that comes to life. I would also love to see more greenery in the area to attract children and families, therefore would incorporate a play are for children and adults to. I would love to get some feedback, to see what people think..thank you so much.cla