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July 27, 2012

From Melrose Park to St Peters, Lucy Carroll profiles four Sydney suburbs that are affordable and desirable.

MELROSE PARK Kilometres from CBD: 14

Melrose Park, a tightly held pocket on the northern bank of Parramatta River, is one of 16 suburbs that make up the City of Ryde. “It’s really like a little golfers’ estate,” says Award Group real estate agent David Johnson.

Joy Goldfeder and baby Jonah outside her Californian bungalow in Arncliffe.
Joy Goldfeder and baby Jonah outside her Californian bungalow in Arncliffe. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Sharing the same postcode as Denistone and West Ryde, the tiny eight-street “village” is dotted with pine trees, cycleways and charming 1930s bungalows. For a riverside suburb it’s good value – according to Australian Property Monitors, the median house price is $760,000. In Putney, just around the river, that figure stands at almost $1.1 million.

With a local public school and accessible transport (Meadowbank train station, the RiverCat), the area has become a go-to for young families and couples: 34 per cent of residents are aged under 40. Small parks and open space mean owning a dog is practically a prerequisite. “The streets have always been quiet and the homes are better loved,” says Johnson. “People stick to this area because it’s a market niche.”

The local Halis Yaman, 38, Financial markets manager; resident since 2012

Artist Edward Horne at Tortuga Studios in St Peters.
Artist Edward Horne at Tortuga Studios in St Peters. Photo: Jennifer Soo

How did you find Melrose Park? We were looking around West Ryde and Denistone for a bigger place in a leafy suburb. I had a friend who was looking around Putney and he told me about Melrose Park. I didn’t even know it existed! It’s quaint with all these wartime brick bungalows. There’s a real Concord feel about it.

Do you have any favourite places to go? There’s a boat ramp within walking distance of my house. And the walk to Meadowbank wharf is gorgeous, the river on one side and parkland on the other. There’s a buzz of activity on weekends – people playing sport and walking dogs.

What does the suburb need? A local convenience store.

What’s the community like? Everyone says hello to each other. I think back to where I was living before [Granville] and I probably spoke to two people in 10 years. Here, people want to preserve that interaction between neighbours.

Neighbourhood amenities

1. Meadowbank Park  More than 10 playing fields and cycling parks along Parramatta River. Constitution Road, Meadowbank.

2. Melrose Park Public School Local school on large grounds. 110 Wharf Road. Phone: 9874 4669.

3. Village Plaza Large shopping centre next door to train station and ferry wharf. Bay Drive, Meadowbank. Phone: 9809 0899.

4. Armory Wharf Café Just over the Parramatta River. Dog friendly. Blaxland Riverside Park, Jamieson Street, Newington. Phone: 9714 7513.

5. Dolcini Catch the ferry to this Italian cafe. Famous for their Nutella muffins and miniature gelato cones. 1/90 Charles Street, Putney. Phone: 9808 4111.

AUBURN Kilometres from CBD: 17

It’s not exactly inner city, but Auburn is one of the few Sydney suburbs where you can still nab a bargain. Says Robert Harley agent Abraham Hussein, “Prices are very reasonable. We’re getting a lot of investors and younger families.”

It’s more than 15 kilometres to the CBD, but the train service is quick: hop on the Western Line and it’s about half an hour to Town Hall station. “It’s very central,” says Starr Partners principal Dean Olsen. “And the food is cheap.”

The community is famously diverse; more than two-thirds of residents are born overseas, many from China, Turkey, Lebanon and Somalia. In terms of infrastructure and services, Auburn has it all: high-street shops, a vibrant restaurant scene, good schools and hospitals. Crime rates are down, too: violent offences have fallen 15 per cent in the past two years, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

The median house price is $460,000, roughly two-thirds the Sydney median, and Olsen says buyers can pick up a single-fronted workers’ cottage for about $420,000. Demand for commercial property is also rising: C&A Real Estate’s Shane Ada has a cafe, grocer and jeweller all seeking space on the main strip.

The local Kasia Sanetra-Butler, 31, management consultancy director; resident since 2010

Why did you move here? It’s truly multicultural. And not like other suburbs that say they’re multicultural – Auburn really is. Affordability was also a factor. A lot of services are really inexpensive; we have the house cleaned twice a week and we don’t do any ironing. We couldn’t afford to do that in the inner west.

What’s the best thing about it? Auburn is a city in itself. From hospitals to schools and libraries, you have everything. Plus there are very good restaurants. People come here for the food! You can afford to go out for dinner every night: it’s easily less than $20 for two. And it’s only a 45-minute drive to the Blue Mountains … we go there for breakfast on weekends.

Do you have any favourite local restaurants? The Pakistani and Indian food at Khan Baba is amazing. In Auburn, people stay out until after 10pm. Instead of going to the pub for a beer, you go to cafes for Turkish tea and sweets.

Is there anything the area lacks? Japanese food.

Neighbourhood amenities

1. Auburn Botanic Gardens Parklands with a traditional Japanese garden. Free for residents. Corner Chisholm and Chiswick roads. Phone: 9735 1222.

2. Khan Baba Pakistani and Indian restaurant. Cricketer and politician Imran Khan dines here when he’s in town. 121 Auburn Road. Phone: 9749 1000.

3. Real Turkish Delight This family-run business has been selling sweets since 1974. Shop 1, 3-5 Station Road. Phone: 9649 9787.

4. Arzum Market Grocery store, specialises in Turkish tea and boiled lollies. 61 Rawson Street. Phone: 9649 9327.

5. Buket Bakery Turkish bread and spinach pide. 67 Rawson Street. Phone: 9643 2135.

6. Mado Café Known for its desserts. Come here late for black coffee, ice cream and baklava. 63 Auburn Road. Phone: 9643 5299.

7. Gallipoli Mosque Ottoman-style mosque attracts 800 worshippers every week. 15-19 Gelibolu Parade. Phone: 9646 5972.

8. Gima Supermarket Turkish supermarket stocked with halva, fairy floss and pastries. 31-35 Queen Street. Phone: 9749 4588.

9. Vatan Persian and Iranian cuisine. 65 Auburn Road. Phone: 9649 4450.

10. Auburn Library Currently operating out of the Council Atrium. Features kids’ programs and classes. 1 Susan Street. Phone: 9735 1250.

ARNCLIFFE Kilometres from CBD: 10

Arncliffe is still largely underrated, despite its proximity to the city and classic Federation-era houses. “People talk about accessibility,” says Raine and Horne’s George Kambouroglou. “You can jump on the freeway and you’re in the city in 15 minutes.”

The median house price here is $649,000, considerably less than Dulwich Hill at $839,000.

First National’s Dominic Mandile believes a big draw is the “original architecture and leadlight windows. People come here because of the Californian bungalows and Victorian terraces.” Buyers expect aircraft noise, but Arncliffe is between flight paths – not under one. “Compared to Newtown and Marrickville, it’s heaven,” says resident Mick Freedman.

It doesn’t have the cafe scene of, say, Summer Hill, but there are stacks of Lebanese bakeries and pizza shops. For young families moving in (many from the inner west), the wealth of schools is a bonus: there’s Arncliffe Primary, Athelstane Public and Sydney Technical High School in Bexley. The major advantage? “It’s all about price,” says Mandile. “You can buy a one-bedroom unit for $320,000. It’s ridiculously cheap.”

The local Joy Goldfeder, 32, television producer; resident since 2008

What interested you in Arncliffe? Affordability. We were looking at properties around Randwick and found that we didn’t get much bang for our buck. We got a dog and needed a yard, so we came here. They’re huge blocks, nothing like what we could get a step into in the east. And it’s close to the city – that was a big drawcard. It’s right on the doorstep of Newtown and Marrickville.

What do you like most about it? Every week there are new people moving in. Our neighbours moved here from Balmain, other people have moved from the eastern suburbs. But it’s still a mix of the old and new. There are people who have lived here for 60 years; they grow all their vegetables in their back garden. Mario, our neighbour, still has racing pigeons that he lets out in the mornings.

Are there any downsides? We don’t have a supermarket. [Update: Woolworths Wolli Creek has recently opened at 78/94-96 Arncliffe Street, Wolli Creek.]

Where are your favourite places to eat? You can’t miss going to Hijazi’s Felafel. They’re from a bygone era … $6 for 12 felafels! At some of the bakeries you can still get a cheese pizza for $1.50. It’s unheard of.

Neighbourhood amenities

1. Arncliffe Library Recently renovated. New children’s area and free wi-fi. 7-11 Firth Street. Phone: 9562 1816.

2. Al-Zahra Mosque Shi’ite mosque opened in 1980. 1 Wollongong Road. Phone: 8021 8153.

3. Arncliffe Studios Stained glass and leadlight repairs. 17 Barden Street. Phone: 9567 7348.

4. Peace Bakery Fresh Lebanese bread every day. 39 Wollongong Road. Phone: 9567 0270.

5. Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church Former Methodist church opened in 1905. 72 Wollongong Road. Phone: 9597 1413.

6. Hijazi’s Falafel Famous for its Lebanese breakfast. 53 Wollongong Road. Phone: 9599 0726.

7. Said Pastry Cellophane-wrapped baklava in every shape and size. 106 Wollongong Road. Phone: 9567 3799.

8. Elzein Bakery Pick up a za’atar bread and pizza for under $10. 1a Firth Street. Phone: 9556 3136.

ST PETERS Kilometres from CBD: 6

With Enmore and Marrickville as neighbours, it’s little wonder St Peters has slipped under the inner-west radar. With industrial sites (brickyards, factories) and busy thoroughfares (Princes Highway), it’s often labelled the “poorer sister of Newtown”, says Planet Properties agent Rosalie Gordon. “But it’s affordable and has some nice historical homes.” The median house price here stands at $730,000; Glebe, just five kilometres north, is $965,000.

Plenty of first-home buyers, mainly young professionals with children, are snapping up the Victorian terraces, semi-detached cottages and brand-new apartments (a result of Marrickville Council’s re-zoning of former warehouses). A thriving artist community has lured creative residents: more than 10 artist-run initiatives now operate in the area. Yes, there’s aircraft noise, says Gordon, but “Edith and Silver streets are a bit off the path”. Double-glazing doesn’t hurt, either. Good infrastructure is also a drawcard: there’s Sydney Park, two train stations and local schools (St Peters Public and Tempe High). Fort Street High, a top-performing selective school, is just north in Petersham. The food scene is set to grow, too – keep an eye out for Velvet Garage, a new cafe-gallery due to open on Applebee Street later this year.

The local Edward Horne, 36, artist; resident since 2009

What’s the best thing about living here? The diversity of life, culture and industry. There’s King Street with its Vietnamese, Indian and Italian communities. And Sydney Park is so close by. Marrickville Council has set up an arts precinct called the St Peters Triangle with six artist-run studios. They keep growing – another two have popped up in the last year.

Is there anything the suburb needs? A bicycle lane. Getting out of May Street and onto King Street can be a bit hairy on a bike sometimes.

What’s the community like? Everyone’s so helpful, from the young feral artists who live over the road to the corporate advertising gurus who live next door. What we love most is neighbours dropping into the studio. People will come in to ask advice and to borrow tools.

Are there any hidden spots that people don’t know about? Metropolitan Demolitions. They sell hardwoods and building materials. It’s hard to find second-hand timber these days without getting ripped off from boutique restoration places.

Neighbourhood amenities 1. The Rizzeria Stencil printing co-op. Workshops and courses available. 9 Edith Street. rizzeria.com

2. Graphic Art Mount Known for its good-quality, affordable framing and canvas stretching. 9 May Street. Phone: 9550 4232.

3. Montague & Mabel A treasure trove of mid-20th-century furniture run by vintage expert Patti Southern. 68 May Street. retroonregent.com.au

4. Mays Lane Art Project Back-alley gallery space run by graphic-art businessman Tugi Balog. May Street. Phone: 9550 4232.

5. Tortuga Studios An artist-run initiative located in a converted brick factory. 31 Princes Highway. tortugastudios.org.au

6. Sydney Park and The Kiosk Kids’ playground, bike track and outdoor cafe. Food trucks are set to pull up later this year. Sydney Park Road. sydneyparkkiosk.com.au

7. Aslan Coffee Cosy cafe. Borrow a picnic rug and have a coffee in the park. 1 Council Street. Phone: 8005 7767.

8. Tempe Tip Giant op shop run by the Salvos. Vintage without the mark-ups. 7 Bellevue Street. Phone: 9519 1513.

9. Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym Super-sized indoor gym with kids’ programs and personal tuition. Unit 4C/1-7 Unwins Bridge Road. Phone: 9519 3325.

10. Cataluna Espresso, Tapas & Wine Bar New hole-in-the-wall cafe. Good coffee and wine selection. 641 King Street. Phone: 8068 1689.

11. Metropolitan Demolition Yard Recycling yard stocked with old warehouse lights, glass tiles and assorted timber. 396 Princes Highway. Phone: 9519 3099.

Lead-in photograph (by Sahlan Hayes): Hallis Yaman, his wife Funda, daughter Selin and son Koray at Wharf Road Boat Ramp, Melrose Park. 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney magazine, 27 July 2012.