Four industrial chimney towers are on the horizon as you drive down the Princess Highway away from Newtown. In the grounds of Sydney Park, these brick columns mark the suburb of St Peters.
Named in the 1940s because of its association with the St Peters Anglican Church, the area operated as a major brickmaking centre throughout the 19th century. As industry thrived, it became populated with factories, warehouses and residential townhouses.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the chimneys, along with the kilns and other remains of the Bedford Brickworks Group site, are heritage-listed. St Peters Church is one of the oldest Anglican churches in Sydney, and gentrification is driving development, raising property prices and pushing small businesses from the inner city to the fringes.
Over the past few years warehouse spaces in the inner west have become sought after real estate. Hospitality and creative businesses are building trendy establishments inside the spaces, with their exposed-beam ceilings and raw concrete floors. While May Street has a small collection of garage-door cafes and fitness studios, St Peters, for the most part, has remained untouched. That was until property developer Jason Varker-Miles purchased the old Taubman’s paint factory in November 2013.
“We loved the old building and the creative feel of place,” says Varker-Miles.
Stirred by the increasing number of creative businesses being pushed out of the city, and the lack of amenities for the St Peters community, Varker-Miles overhauled the derelict building and restored it to its historic charm with a vision to establish a creative hub. The result is Precinct 75.
Positioned on the hill overlooking St Peters, the red Precinct 75 sign beckons. The exposed-brick walls of the old Taubman’s paint factory remain true, but inside the site has been redesigned into suites of creativity. The open driveways look into industrial coffee roasters and micro breweries, each businesses name branded across its navy-blue roller door in matching graffiti scrawl.
“It’s a cool destination for businesses and the community, a hub of activity for creative communities working together,” says Varker-Miles.
The businesses inside Precinct 75 are all carefully selected. “We want people who are a cultural fit for Precinct 75; unique businesses,” says Varker-Miles.
Among the creatives are Willie the Boatmen brewers, a Sample Coffee cafe, and The Society Inc’s new interior store. There is also a CrossFit Infinitum, an axe-throwing venue and a specialist bakery, Buttercream Bakery.
In the 12 buildings and 70 businesses that occupy Precinct 75 there are design companies and showrooms, with studios used as sites for MBFW shows and fashion photography shoots. It was the old factory aesthetic that drew Quercus & Co., a pattern design and printing company, to the space. “Our style is quite old-school and vintage-inspired, everything is hand-painted and we print using the latest digital technology. The old tin shed we have moved into here is a perfect look for presenting our products and for taking style shots,” says founder Adam Jones.
Varker-Miles wants to make Precinct 75 a community centre. This will be realised soon with monthly, bespoke flea markets open to the public.
“We are encouraging our tenants to really be involved in the markets. It will showcase locally manufactured food, products and artisans,” says Varker-Miles.