Sydney Road, Melbourne
|Sydney Road, Brunswick, looking south to the CBD|
|Length||24 km (15 mi)|
|Route number(s)||Metropolitan Route 55|
|North end||Hume Freeway, Craigieburn, Melbourne|
|Craigieburn Road, Somerton Road, Cooper Street, Camp/Mahoneys Roads, Western Ring Road, Bell Street, Brunswick Road|
|South end||Royal Parade, Parkville, Melbourne|
|Major suburbs||Somerton, Campbellfield, Coburg, Brunswick|
Sydney Road starts at the northern end of Royal Parade at the boundary of Parkville and Brunswick and continues north through Brunswick, Coburg, Coburg North, Hadfield, Fawkner, Campbellfield, Somerton and Craigieburn, where it joins the Hume Freeway.
The section passing through Brunswick and Coburg, between Park Street at its southern end and Bell Street near the site of the former Pentridge prison, at its northern end, is Melbourne's longest continuous shopping strip, with an abundance of small businesses and a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, clothing stores, places of worship, and community services. It is well known for its wedding fashion shops, discount shopping and a number of specialist food stores.
Tram route 19 runs along the inner section of Sydney Road, starting at Bakers Road in Coburg North and ending in Elizabeth Street at Flinders Street Station in the city. The Upfield railway line from the city loop runs parallel to Sydney Road about 200m to the west, with stations at Jewell, Brunswick, Anstey, Moreland and Coburg giving easy pedestrian access. Several east-west bus routes cross Sydney Road at various points (routes 503 , 504 , 506 , 508 , 509 , 510 , 512 and 513 ). The road has historically been signed as Route 31, but since the opening of the Craigieburn Bypass has been relegated to Route 55.
The Victorian gold rush in the 1850s caused businesses to flourish on Sydney Road. Many were established to supply the miners on their trek north to the gold fields. Numerous hotels were built along Sydney Road in this period including the Brunswick Hotel, the Cornish Arms Hotel, the Sarah Sands Hotel, the Cumberland Arms Hotel and the Court House Hotel. It was originally called Pentridge Road, as it connected the city with Pentridge prison. It was renamed Sydney Road In 1859.
The early hub of business activity was between Weston Street and Albert Street in Brunswick, but by the 1880s businesses were rapidly being established beyond Albion Street. In the 1920s the clothing and textile industries grew; evidence of their presence in the area can still be seen in the existence of tailors shops, fabric shops and an abundance of wedding gown shops.
During the 1930s the Unemployed Workers Movement held street meetings on the corner of Sydney Road and Phoenix Street. These meetings were harassed and suppressed by the police, under the direct orders of Police Commissioner, General Thomas Blamey. Young Australian artist Noel Counihan played a significant part in this campaign. The State Government, concerned about the public sympathy being generated, eventually changed the law in regard to obstruction, with no requirement of permits to speak. A Free Speech memorial was built outside the Mechanics' Institute on the corner of Sydney and Glenlyon Roads to commemorate the success of the free speech fights. Counihan's work as an artist and local resident is also commemorated by the Counihan Gallery on Sydney Road run by the City of Moreland Council.
During the second world war and in the 1950s, Sydney Road came alive with late night shopping. This included late night shopping parades with floats. The construction of the Barkly Square shopping complex immediately to the east of Sydney Road in the 1980s coincided with a decline in the success of the strip. The Sydney Road Brunswick Association was formed in the early 1990s to provide a focus for action to revive the strip, utilising a range of community development and marketing techniques.
With postwar immigration, many migrant families established businesses. The multicultural nature of business on Sydney Road is reflected in the cuisines offered by its restaurants and cafes. Italian, Greek and Balkan cuisines were once the dominant non-Anglo fare, but since the 1980s Sydney Road's eateries have diversified and increased in number, so that the food available now includes Lebanese, Afghan, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, North and East African, Balinese, Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Nepali cuisines. In the early 2000s, several hotels (pubs) were renovated and have become very popular live music venues. Property prices in Brunswick and Coburg (south of Bell Street) rose sharply in the 1990s and early 2000s. The signs of gentrification are increasingly evident in the southern quarter of Sydney Road, with a rising number of clothing boutiques and many new eateries serving eclectic and contemporary Australian 'fusion' cuisine in stylish, designer environments, producing an increasingly diversified street life.
As a major activity centre in Moreland, Sydney Road is a key component in any strategies of urban intensification to meet the requirements of the Victorian Government's metropolitan strategy, Melbourne 2030. In his first speech in December 2006, newly elected Moreland Mayor Mark O'Brien proposed turning the entire 4.5 km commercial strip between Brunswick Road and Bell Street into a promenade, which would transform the usually congested Sydney Road into one of the longest pedestrian streets in the world.
Sydney Road contains many historical landmarks. Many of the hotels date from the 1850s, including the Cornish Arms hotel and the Sarah Sands Hotel on the corner of Brunswick Road. The Bombay Rock at the corner of Phoenix Street, was one of the pre-eminent rock music venues in Melbourne in the 1970s and 80s.
Brunswick Town Hall, built in 1876 on the corner of Dawson Street, is an imposing Victorian edifice. It was saved from planned destruction by the municipal council in 1973-1974 when Vic and Vida Little, along with the Brunswick Progress Association, led a successful campaign to preserve it. The building was significantly extended and renovated in the early 1990s to upgrade the library, offices and public assembly spaces.
Diagonally opposite from the Town Hall stands the Mechanics Institute, built in 1868, and used for worker education and social activities. A monument to the Free Speech fights of the 1930s stands near the corner. The history of many of the single and double story shop fronts can be seen in the names and years moulded into the upper portions of the building facades. The Mechanics Institute now provides a popular performance space and offices for local arts administrators.
Sydney Road has a number of institutions that are notable for their contribution to the broader cultural life of Melbourne. The Mediterranean supermarket, between Victoria and Blyth Streets is a long-established, large and well-known source of Italian and other European foodstuffs. The A1 Middle Eastern Bakery, at the top of Brunswick Hill is the most high-profile of a number of such bakeries in the area, well known for products such as flat bread that are supplied across Melbourne. A tour of these bakeries forms part of Melbourne's annual Food and Wine festival. Savers is a very popular supermarket-sized second-hand clothing store, located between Albert Street and Glenlyon Road. Well known for its bridal shops, a recent arrival in Sydney Road is Mariana Hardwick's emporium in the eponymously (re)named building between Sparta Place and Ballarat Street.
Each year the City of Moreland Council organises the Sydney Road Street Party, usually on a Sunday at the end of February, running from midday to 7pm. Sydney Road is closed to traffic from Union Street to Victoria Street in Brunswick. The Street Party launches the annual Brunswick Music Festival.
Several stages are erected for a variety of ethnic, folk and rock music to be performed live. Hundreds of community groups and local businesses set up stalls on the road. Street theatre and kids shows, and a wide variety of tasty food from many cuisines is there to be sampled. Tens of thousands of people enjoy a day of festivities taking over Sydney Road.
On 28 May 2006 Australia's first ever Cyclovia was held on Sydney Road. From 8am–2pm the road was closed to motorised vehicles (except trams) between Brunswick Road and Bell Street, leaving the roadway free to be used by cyclists.
A second Cyclovia had been planned for Sunday, 17 February 2008, to tie in with a closure of Royal Parade and Swanston Street as part of the Sustainable Living Festival. However, the event was criticised by the RACV which claimed it was "a nuisance". The event was re-scheduled and took place on Sunday, 13 April 2008. Cafés along Sydney Road reported a brisk trade during the Cyclovia, while some other businesses complained they had fewer customers. Moreland councillor Mark Higginbotham called for the event to be held more often.
- Donati, L. Almost Pretty: A History of Sydney Road, Publishing Solutions, 2005, ISBN 1-920892-38-9
- Sydney Road boulevard of dreams, The Age, 6/1/07
- Susan Robson, 'Cyclovia flops', Moreland Leader, 14/1/08, p.9
- Lucas, Clay (2008-04-14). "Two wheels rule on Sydney Road". The Age. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
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