I always said that the day my Lebanese nut shop closed was the day I’d leave Marrickville.
Well it seems my prophecy has almost come to pass. My beloved Hashem’s grocer near Dulwich Hill Station (owned by Abdul and Rhonda and their family) may not have closed permanently, but it has moved up the street… and this week their old building was flattened to make way for shiny new apartments. It’s official. The gentrification of Marrickville is almost complete.
I made the ‘ville my home 11 years ago as a 20-year-old student and I’ve certainly seen it change in that time – to both my delight and my sorrow. In the summer of 2007 I moved into a tiny doll’s house of an attic bedroom in an old terrace on the corner of Illawarra and Sydenham Roads, and at night I’d look over the rooftops to the shining-blue beacon of hope that is the neon cross of St Brigid’s. There were literally two cafes on Marrickville Road – the old post cafe and Kelby’s – and that year Marrickville was the suburb with highest proportion of people listing ‘artist’ as their vocation on the census. We lived in Marrickville because it was cheap, but we hung out in Newtown in the golden days before the Lock-out Laws destroyed King Street.
I’ll admit that I welcomed the early signs of gentrification. I bought my unit when the prices were still low and made good use of all the new cafes, small bars and venues that popped up. I’m still glad of them. For a while it felt like the perfect balance – rent was still cheap so all my favourite family-owned restaurants and multicultural grocers were still open – but when Marrickville started getting named as Sydney’s most hipster suburb, I knew it was time to go…
This week – as I was swimming in a sea of packing chaos – the ABC published an opinion piece revealing that the truth about living in Sydney is that everyone has an escape plan. The obscene cost of living and the speed of population growth (combined with utter lack of forward-planning for thoughtful housing and transport solutions in the face of increased density), has turned Sydney into a city just isn’t that liveable. Sure, we may have some of the world’s best beaches, national parks and a stunning harbour on our doorstep, but if you lose the plot while sitting in traffic on your way to said leisure location, it kinda defeats the purpose.
As sad as we are to be leaving Marrickville, for Carl and me, the cons just simply outweigh the pros. Here’s the escape plan: Quit our jobs, sell our place, buy a van and spend the next year seeing if we can figure out how to create a simpler life…
Do you have a Sydney escape plan? I called in to Triple J’s hack to share mine this week. You can listen to the discussion here via iTunes (the topic of Sydney escape plans starts around the 11 minute mark). Leave me a comment telling me yours.