After a decade-long saga of empty shops and cancelled plans, the City of Sydney has again announced its intention to refurbish the Darlinghurst laneway that stretches from Crown to Langley streets.
Foley Street runs behind a council-owned building on Oxford Street and has been an issue of contention between the City and local residents for some years.
“The management from council on this issue has not been professional at all,” said Stephan Gyory, a long-term business owner, activist and member of the 2010 Business Partnership.
Problems arose in 2006 when council evicted the tenants in the Oxford Street building with the intention of redeveloping it is a major chain grocery store. When no interest was shown, Mr Gyory and the 2010 Business Partnership argued council had detrimented the area’s daytime economy.
“With the space unused the economy suffered for a variety of reasons,” Mr Gyory said.
In 2010 plans were again made to transform Foley Street into a Melbourne-style laneway. Residents were unhappy with this proposal and were concerned that the small residential space would become a bustling commercial strip.
At the time, Jo Holder, President of the Darlinghurst Residents Action Group, told City News she was worried it would become full of bars and clubs like Oxford Street.
“I think it is another ill-conceived folly because it might end up being another alcohol zone as every man and his dog is wanting to set up a wine bar,” Ms Holder said.
The same concerns are shared, three years later, by Jane Anderson, the President of the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association.
“We need diversification, but it needs to be away from the 24-hour drinking culture,” Ms Anderson said.
Mr Gyory concurred but said any space is better used than unused.
“We cannot look a gift horse in the mouth but council needs to communicate better with their creative spaces department,” he told City News.
Mr Gyory said his part of the city had been left behind.
“No-one ever talks about East Sydney. From Woolloomoolloo to Waterloo to Darlinghurst there is a massive untapped quarter,” he said.
“It will be very unfortunate for council not to look at the bigger picture which is trying to improve our daytime economy to draw traffic from across the city. This refurbishment is a small step, but we need help.”