The first time I ventured to South Eveleigh was four years ago on a walk discovering Redfern. Known then as The Australian Technology Park, the old machinery fascinated me. I looked around, imagining the dust, grime and noise as workers laboured away on the machines.
Why Visit South Eveleigh?
Recently when taking a group of Sydney Greeters around Redfern we diverted for a quick look at the South Eveleigh precinct where we’d heard a new IGA Food Hall had opened. That brief detour prompted my return today.
It feels good, if a little strange, being out again with my backpack and camera, looking and observing. This is the first time in many months that I’m venturing out to explore independently.
In 2015 Mirvac bought the Australian Technology Park. Renamed South Eveleigh, it is a Tech hub, home to the Commonwealth Bank and fast becoming a foodie destination.
Arriving via Redfern Station
Joining the throng of workers walking along Redfern Station’s Platform 10 at Station I walk to the South Eveleigh Exit. A man calls out to his mate in a strong Irish accent “Do you want your jacket? It’s in here”. His countryman, also wearing a hard hat and a high-viz shirt replies in the affirmative. I could listen to their lilting accent all day.
To my left tall metal legs support a large square metal water tower, the first obvious indication of the area’s prior history.
Much Attention to Detail
Along the edge of a ramp letters cut into the fence uprights read “Eveleigh Railway Workshops”. Further along, other uprights reveal a steam engine pulling carriages.
A concrete retaining wall supports a pretty garden bed. Etched into the concrete the words “Chisholm’s Estate”, “Calder House Property” and “Hutchinson ‘s Estate” refer to previous owners of the property where I now stand. It’s obvious that much care and thought went into the finish and final presentation of this redevelopment.
Opposite the National Innovation Centre, a refurbished Bell Tower stands proudly above the International Business Centre, previously the Works Manager’s Office.
A Chance Meeting
A woman sees me taking photographs and tells me “you must see the travelator… and the Cultural Garden”. She has lived in the area for 40 years and has seen many changes.
We chat, stepping aside to avoid the stream of delivery trucks reversing in and out Romeo’s loading dock. An Aboriginal woman, she teaches school kids about “star law” (Indigenous astronomy) and kindly shares some of her knowledge with me.
She mentions that two stars, Bonita and Koiki were named after Bonita Mabo and Eddie Mabo. She tells me what the four stars of the Southern Cross represent in her culture. I can only remember two – Law and Culture.
We part without exchanging names. I’m sorry I didn’t invite her to join me for a coffee.
Strips of metal embedded in the brickwork of Innovation Plaza tell stories from the past. One tells a wry joke.
St Peter asks a man who “stood at the pearly gates” what he had done to earn entry through the gates. “Why I worked at Eveleigh Loco until my dying day” the man replied. “The gate opened sharp… Come in and take a harp. You’ve had enough of hell”.
Grasses and trees offer a quiet place to relax in the cultural garden which includes a BBQ area. Much effort has gone into making South Eveleigh an inviting place for the local community to enjoy.
Thousands of labourers, skilled tradesmen and professionals worked in the Locomotive Workshops over a 100-year period.
The recorded sounds of metal hitting metal and the clunking of moving parts accompany me as I read information panels describing the workshops’ history and check out some of the original machinery. Describing his work one man said “You have to yell to be heard”.
I learn about blacksmithing from the interactive screen. If I wanted to actually get my hands dirty, I could do a blacksmithing course here.
Romeo’s Food Hall IGA
Romeo’s Food Hall IGA opened in April this year and I take a look around. Arranged around industrial heritage fixtures, there’s a cheese room, pizza bar, deli, sushi and bakery. Meat hangs in a glass walled cool room and a florist prepares bunches of flowers for display. Staff greet me with a friendly smile.
Toilets aren’t often mentioned in blog posts, but in South Eveleigh they deserve a mention. On the far side of Romeo’s, I walk down a long passage lined with wooden panelling on one side and large steel poles interspersed with historic photos on the other to the ‘Ladies’.
Little bells dangle from each cubicle door. The basins have an industrial feel in keeping with the heritage site. Again, that attention to detail.
Before leaving the Locomotive Workshops building, I ride up and down the travelator to fully experience the changing visual display depicting heritage of the site.
The Commonwealth Bank occupies two large buildings in South Eveleigh, the Foundry and Axle buildings. I walk into their foyers and gape at the scale of these structures which offer large open spaces and natural light to complement the industrial feel. How many people work here, I wonder? Apparently around 10 000.
Public Art in South Eveleigh
In my amazement, I forget to note the public artwork in the foyer of the Axle building. By Jonathan Jones’ the untitled work is site-specific using old red gum slabs taken from the Koondrook/Barham region on the Murray River, up to 100 years ago.
In the Village Square another artwork has a practical function. By Chris Fox, the Interchange Pavilion provides seating and shelter. Notice how diverging and meeting rail tracks inspired the creation.
A Community Garden
The Community Rooftop Garden above Yerrabingin Community Centre is supposedly accessible to the public. The lift doesn’t move and I find a sign telling me to ‘press the intercom outside the door for entry’.
Security answers the buzzer. They tell me I have to make an appointment. That’s not what the sign says, but she won’t budge, telling me to go to the Mirvac office. There a sign at reception tells me to “call my Mirvac representative’.
I look around lost. Then a man offers to find a “team member” to take me up to the roof. The team member, Didi, explains how the garden is currently closed, but “from Monday the public can access the roof via the buzzer”. That is unless the space has been booked for a private function.
The Community Rooftop Garden is wonderful space with a carefully planted garden featuring a “yarning circle”. Didi apologises that “it’s not at its best now. In spring the flowers are all out” and leaves me to explore further.
An alarm goes off when I return to the lift. Did I do that? A recorded male voice instructs me to “Evacuate the building, evacuate the building”. It’s a false alarm.
Children’s Play Area
Eveleigh Tree House by Nell, a public art feature outside Yerrabingin, enables adults and their charges to venture into the treetops. I watch as children enjoy the creative space, and plan to return with my grandsons.
Like the workers queuing at the various food outlets on Locomotive Street, I’m hungry now. I settle for a baguette from Romeo’s and sit outside in the sun.
Watching a man cleaning lamp posts with a duster on a long pole I reflect that Mirvac really does pay attention to detail.
South Eveleigh offers the visitor heritage and history, public art and community space, a great food hall, interesting eateries including Kylie Kwong’s Lucky Kwong.
If you enjoyed reading about South Eveleigh, you might enjoy reading about the Addison Road Centre in Marrickville. Quite different but equally fascinating.
- Use public transport to get to South Eveleigh – enter the precinct via Platform 10 at Redfern Station. If you can’t manage stairs, exit Redfern Station at Lawson St. Turn left down Gibbons Street and follow the walking path to Margaret Street to enter the precinct
- Casual parking is at The Foundry Car Park, 2 Central Avenue. Weekdays, it is 2hours free with ticket validation at selected retailers. After 2 hours, the cost mounts up. On weekends parking is free for the first two hours
- Walk through the Locomotive Workshops from Innovation Square to reach Romeo’s and the travelator
- Yerrabingin House, The Community Building, is at 2 Davy Street. The Rooftop Garden is open to the public unless there’s a function booked. Press the buzzer on the wall outside the building near the lift to gain access. The play area is nearby.
- Axle Building: 5-7 Central Avenue
- The Foundry: 1 Locomotive Street
- Find out more about the history and what’s on at South Eveleigh here