By Jo Rittey


Gentrification is often a dirty word amongst those who see change in an urban setting as a loss of history and culture. The disdain comes from the idea that diverse multi-cultural areas are taken over by hipsters and their over-priced coffee and avo smash, ergo, a lack of vibrancy and progressiveness. It does often mean that lower income residents are displaced as more upmarket apartment buildings, retail and hospitality venues move mean the older buildings and original workers cottages are demolished.


There can be positive outcomes to gentrification, and in a burgeoning city, it is somewhat inevitable that suburbs which have enjoyed an edgier, more salubrious reputation change. Building developers, councils and business owners do need to work together to provide for all in the community.


Abbotsford is one such gentrifying suburb, and in particular, Johnston Street Abbotsford, is undergoing swift gentrification.


Joachim Holland, Director of Fieldwork Architects has been designing in Melbourne’s hottest inner urban gentrifying suburbs for 10 years. He believes it is not on the main street you need to look to see the first signs of transformation, but in the quiet backstreet cul de sacs where you can get an indication of the next sweep of gentrification.


“I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that there’s been a number of high quality architectural interventions in the back streets of Johnston Street,” says Joachim Holland.  “Generally the houses around the main streets lift before the actual main street. Smith Street, Collingwood is a strong case in point and now it is Johnston Street, Abbotsford’s time.”


Peter Walsh proprietor of Dr Morse, a trendy Abbotsford bar and eatery that is hugely popular with locals, has seen significant change in Johnston Street.


“There has been progressive transformation over the last 3 years, barber shops, vinyl shops, jewelers and furniture shops. There are a lot of start up businesses and production studios off Johnston Street too.”


Peter is of the opinion that managed change is good for the area. So confident is Walsh in the brightness of the street’s future that the and his business partners are only months away from opening their second venue in the strip, to cater for the increasingly mobile, lifestyle focused population.


In support of this surge in redevelopment, the City of Yarra has prepared the Johnston Street local area plan. The local area plan sets out a proposed vision for the future of Johnston Street which includes coordinating better community services, improving transport especially pedestrian and cycling, physical changes to streetscapes and advice of suitable scale and design of buildings.


Quality change and considered gentrification in these low rise, inner urban areas is good for cities and good for people. It provides homes that are close to jobs, transport and shops whilst providing quality homes for a rapidly growing population.


A great example of appropriate development in Johnston Street, The Argyle represents outstanding architecture in this prime, urban location. Comprising 40 apartments that are targeted towards first home buyers, owner occupiers and investors, The Argyle has striking, contemporary design by Fieldwork Architects that is commensurate with the look and feel of the street.


Josh Buxton Director of Bluestone Real Estate, believes that buying into a suburb on the brink of gentrification makes for great investment. Abbotsford’s sister suburb Collingwood has seen a capital value increase of 27.3% in the last 2 years, and Johnston Street Abbotsford has all the hallmarks of Smith Street 5 years ago. “In many ways Abbotsford is set to better this,” says Buxton.


“In selecting where the next boom suburb for gentrification is, you just need to look at the adjacent suburbs that have boomed. In this case, Abbotsford is surrounded by encroaching suburbs that have now peaked in popularity, Collingwood and Richmond, Abbotsford is the next clear winner.”



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