Arts & Entertainment

Pyrmont-Ultimo: from “Dirt Pile” to Domestic Playground

Erica Reynolds PHOTO: Chris Peken


Throughout its history, the Pyrmont-Ultimo area has gone through some very distinct periods. Some very drastic changes along the way have seen it evolve from an industrial hub, to essentially a derelict “dirt pile”, before emerging as the vibrant, dynamic and creative hub that it currently is.

Due to it’s proximity to Darling Harbour and shipping ports the area initially became a prime spot for industrial projects such as factories, a booming wool trade, a sugar refinery and a power station. However after WWII, these industries began deserting the area, which quickly eroded and became a virtual slum. Right up until 1995, the area was simply viewed as the “carpark between the CBD and Inner West”, according to Pyrmont-Ultimo Chamber Of Commerce Vice-President Erica Reynolds.

In 1995 the Federal and State governments instituted a multibillion dollar revitalisation project which has seen the popularity of the area skyrocket in terms of residential growth. Miss Reynolds, who has also been a resident of the area since 2002, said “I remember moving to Pyrmont and it was just starting to kick-off with the local community, a lot of families have come into the area. There’s a really good diverse mixture of people from young families, older families, corporate business people, creative people and young singles.”

This rapid population growth in turn enticed an entirely new sector of business into the area, spurring on further growth in the hospitality and creative sectors in particular. Pyrmont-Ultimo is now the digital creative hub of Sydney, with 51.9 tech-startups per square kilometre. A diverse range of big businesses such as Google, Network Ten, Fairfax and multiple radio stations have also moved in alongside these startups.

The smaller startups have been aided in their growth through the creation of creative “hothouses” like Fishburners and WOTSO, which act as collaborative co-working spaces for creative entrepreneurs and has seen opportunities for aspiring creative types flourish in Pyrmont-Ultimo’s converted woodsheds and warehouses.

Given the proximity, it would be easy to assume that the area would be dominated by business, but that is far from the case with nearly 20,000 people currently living on the peninsular, with more apartments being built by the day. In the most recent census, Pyrmont-Ultimo overtook Kings Cross and Potts Point to become the mostly densely populated area in Australia.

With all of this talk about business and population density, you could easily think that Pyrmont-Ultimo is just a bleak concrete jungle. But the residents and local community have been keenly aware of this becoming a problem, so they have been very proactive in protecting the natural beauty of the area. As Miss Reynolds put it: “The residents are really proud to live in Pyrmont, so there’s been a lot of action taken through little groups which pushed to have the area looking beautiful” and to ensure that there are lots of green spaces, parks and playgrounds around which complement the beautiful harbour views.

Another area in which the local residents have been quite proactive in is supporting local businesses. “There is a real push by a lot of locals to shop local, be local and embrace the local atmosphere. You can really feel the sense of community,” said Reynolds, before going on to say: “With a lot of other suburbs you live there but go elsewhere to shop or be entertained, but the advantage with Pyrmont is that you don’t have to do that because it offers everything.”

In regards to entertainment, Pyrmont-Ultimo offer a little bit of something for everyone from fine dining in restaurants such as Blue Eyed Dragon or Signorelli, which miss Reynolds says “[have] the best service in Sydney and the most amazing food as well”. For those after a more relaxed dining experience, Harris Street has a plethora of amazing cafes, some of which are owned and operated by locals who previously worked with the likes of Neil Perry and Tetsuya Wakuda – so they have some mind-blowing food to go along with fantastic coffee. Families can enjoy a quiet bike ride around Pirrama Park, taking in the breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour before calling in at the Fish Markets to pick up some of the freshest fish in the country to cook themselves at home. Residents don’t even have to leave the suburb for big events, with the Pyrmont Festival now a yearly occurrence and with VIVID Light Festival now entering into the suburb.

“There are a lot of things to do in the local community, if you just look around I think you’d be set for life,” concluded Reynolds.

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