Eddy, Central Station’s new shopping, dining and cultural hub, opened to the public last week with a perky mix of independent retailers and cultural experiences.

“Any great city has shiny new things, but also dusty, old, dark spaces,” says Barrie Barton, director of strategy and insights at creative agency Right Angle, and co-founder of Golden Age Cinema & Bar and Paramount Recreation Club. “And you have to try to make it all interesting.”

Right Angle, a company “dedicated to understanding and improving life in cities”, was enlisted by Transport for NSW to reanimate the dusty plaza and street front at the Eddy Avenue end of Central Station.

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The 24 hectares of government-owned land surrounding Central Station is undergoing a once-in-a-generation transformation. The project includes the overhaul of the station’s Grand Concourse; construction of additional Sydney Metro platforms; and Central Walk – a new 19-metre-wide and 80-metre-long tunnel connecting Chalmers Street to the Metro platforms.

Then there’s the $3 billion Central Place tech hub at the station’s western edge. The project will include 150,000 square metres of office space across two towers, including what will be the world’s tallest hybrid timber building, built by tech giant Atlassian.

“Train stations are civic places,” Barton tells Broadsheet. “And smothering them with placeless retail brands doesn’t represent the city.

“Spaces in and around train stations and airports are usually leased up by big international or national brands, and local retail doesn’t get a foot in. It’s a real pity for the character of the stations.”

It’s an unusual and revelatory concept: to install a selection of small owner-operated businesses in a location usually reserved for big-name international retailers.

And while the pop-up is only temporary, Barton says this interim period is a unique opportunity for local retailers.

“We have placed some creative and energetic retailers who have a strong work ethic into Central Station so that they can get used to what it’s like to run a city shop. This way, when Central is rejuvenated in the long term, some of these retailers will be able to put their hand up and get retail space in the new station.”

Thirteen new businesses are settling into the precinct – some are open now, others will launch in the coming weeks.

City Oltra, a restaurant and gin bar from pop-up pizza gurus Oltra, is already serving Poor Toms cocktails and hedonistic slices like the Garfield (bolognaise, manchego bechamel, and mozzarella). There is a new eatery from the Nighthawk Diner team, Bear’s, while Picnic Central by Condimental – offering the station’s best coffee and Condimental’s much-loved edit of flavour-packed, meal-saving condiments – is up and running.

Opening in the coming weeks is Shades, a cultural space for avant-garde cinema with a small bar attached, by the Golden Age Cinema & Bar folk. Nonna’s Grocer – which makes candles that look identical to fruit – has also launched its first shopfront, and florist Dust Flowers has also opened in the precinct.

In a riff on the traditional shoe-repair store is Shoebox, a “sneaker laundry” with a pink-and-white chequerboard floor that’s worth checking out, even if your kicks don’t need a clean. Australian Design and Co is a depot for furniture, homewares, lighting and art, all designed and manufactured by Australian makers.

Non-commercial spaces in the precinct include volunteer-run community radio station Nomad Radio, and Eddy Multi Space – four interconnected double-height galleries located at the base of the historic sandstone station, which can be hired out for events, pop-ups, photoshoots and exhibitions.

And while the precinct is transient, it’s not a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-pop-up. The retailers within Eddy Avenue Plaza will be in situ for the next 12 months, and those on Eddy Avenue will stay put for at least 18 months.

“Eddy is an unusual point in time and place where more experimental emerging ideas can take seed,” says Barton. “Melbourne owns the narrative around that evolution but there’s no reason why Sydney can’t do it just as well, if not better. It just needs the space to do it.”

transport.nsw.gov.au