03.20.2024 Local News

The Revival Of Oxford Street

The Revival Of Oxford Street

When I first started work it was the Eastern Suburbs’ most happening destination.

Now it’s back.

When I began work as a real estate agent back in 1993, there was only one place to be on a Saturday afternoon or evening, and that was Oxford Street. Now, it’s coming back to life with new cafes, restaurants and a more sophisticated vibe.

Something for everyone

In the 1980s and 1990s, Oxford Street, Paddington, was the place to see and be seen. It was fun, happening and stylish. The shops on the north side contained a who’s who of Australia’s coolest designers, while the up-and-coming ones had stalls in the markets across the road.

As you moved towards the Darlinghurst end of Oxford Street, it became more about nightlife and, at times, it could feel like one endless party. The Woollahra end, on the other hand, was more refined, with upmarket pubs and restaurants sitting side-by-side with antique dealers.

Throw in cafes, restaurants, bookstores and the Chauvel cinema (which opened in the old Paddington Town Hall in 1977), and there really was something for everyone.

Little wonder it was buzzing pretty much all day and well into the night.

What happened to Oxford Street?

For a while there, there were more shut up shops than open ones on Oxford Street. The obvious thing to say is that Oxford Street became a victim of Westfield Bondi Junction.

When it was relaunched between 2003 and 2004, it had 458 retailers, including both major supermarket chains and other flagship stores. It also boasted cinemas, numerous food options and parking, something that had always been tricky on Oxford Street.

When it opened, trade on Oxford Street reportedly fell 30% in just the first four months.

But the rise of Westfield tells only part of the story—after all, it contained few top-class restaurants, pubs, or nightlife venues. Instead, we think part of Oxford Street’s demise can also be explained by changing demographics.

Census data reveals that, in 2001, the majority of Paddington residents were aged between 25 and 54 (almost 60% of them). Today, that number is closer to 51%.

Over that time, local house prices have jumped incredibly, too. In 1999, the median house price in Paddington was just $589,000. Today it is $3,157,000. In fact,. Paddington now has the most expensive land in all of Australia.

Finally, it wasn’t just the opening of Westfield Bondi Junction that impacted Oxford Street. Over the past 20 years we’ve also seen the rise of other local areas to rival it: Bondi Beach, Surry Hills, Potts Point and Newtown have all become much bigger destinations.

Weekly Market Insight
Receive Ben Collier's Weekly Market Insight directly to your inbox.
Sign Up
  • Enter your details to receive the report
  • Enter your details to receive the report
  • Enter your details to receive the report
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ve also seen the local cafe, dining, and shopping scenes grow in many other suburbs. So people living elsewhere no longer need to travel to Paddington to get their caffeine fix, buy cool clothes or visit a great bar.

How is it coming back?

Like all main streets, Oxford Street has had its boom times and quieter times. But Oxford Street is rising again. As we wrote a couple of years ago, this is being led by the reimagining of classic pubs such as The Paddington (now home of Merivale-owned The Chicken Shop).

And Merivale’s owner, Justin Hemmes, credits the local Councils (Woollahra and City of Sydney) with making the hospitality-led revival of Oxford Street happen, and encouraging things like outdoor dining and “parklets” for seating on the street. It’s a trend we’re seeing other councils try to follow too (Inner West Council’s plans for Balmain’s night life are similarly hospitality-led, and based on post-COVID successes in Enmore).

City of Sydney Mayor, Clover Moore, has been quoted as saying “The City’s long-term vision is for a greener Oxford Street with slowed traffic, improved pedestrian activity and cycling, more and better public spaces”. How far this will extend into the Paddington end of Oxford Street remains to be seen, but plans are underway for a cycleway to connect the city with Centennial Park via Oxford Street.

The latest reincarnation of Oxford Street is perhaps more elegant than what has gone before. Drinking options such as subterranean cocktail bar Charlie Parker’s and 10 William Street (just off Oxford Street) elevate the road’s entertainment options to a new level of sophistication and cater to changing tastes and fashions.

We’re also seeing new upmarket redevelopments, such as Verona, which will incorporate office space with retail spaces, rooftop dining options and twin cinemas (it is built on the site of the old Verona cinemas). And, by the end of 2024, Sydney’s first 25hours hotel will open on the heritage-listed site of the former West Olympia Theatre.

Why we love Oxford Street

For us, Oxford Street holds so many memories, but we love it just as much today and are excited about its future.

It’s part of Sydney that’s steeped in history (the road actually follows an Aboriginal track along the ridgeline), and it offers some of the grandest terraced housing, and best bars and restaurants in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

What’s more, it’s convenient. It’s next to Centennial Park and the Sydney Cricket Ground, and just a short bus ride, cycle, or even walk from the city, the beach and the harbour.

In short, it’s one of the best places to be in all of Sydney.

Want more?

If you’re interested in buying your first property in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, get in touch.

Photo credit: Wikipedia