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Can development build community and commerce?

Presently, this lot is classified as general residential construction. Pending Council approval, the Chinese buyers seek to convert it to a mixed use development, allowing a greater variety of economic activity to take place there. If approved, this project represents a major step forward in Redfern’s development into an influential economic hub.

The restoration of Surry Hills Shopping Village is part of the transformation of Redfern to accommodate the refined tastes of a wealthier community. However the question remains, how well does this suit the interests of the current community?

James Gorman’s article in the May issue of the Daily Telegraph opened up discussion of the development of 399 Cleveland Street to the public. Feedback indicated that the matter is divisive. While some welcome this development as a vitalisation of a tired economy, others have raised questions as to what this means for the elderly and public housing communities.

Seeking more conclusive answers, I looked to grassroots perspectives of people from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.

Ann Schneider, a local bar manager of twenty years, has witnessed Redfern’s turbulent history, its calmer periods, and now its steady rise into a new cultural hub. She awaits this development with optimism: “Redfern’s economy is the priority for me, even more important than keeping its character.

“There might be a problem considering that the Chinese aren’t aware – first hand – of the social impact of their investment. But change has to be made here and they’re the only ones with the money to make it happen. There will be more work, better facilities, and a richer culture.”

Mark Hopkins, a local man of Aboriginal heritage and community housing resident, has expressed some disdain for this project.

“All this property development is going on and yet the roads are all the same, there’s still plenty of rubbish in the streets.

“They reckon they’re improving Redfern, but they’re replacing it slowly, for money, not for the people.”

Such remarks put this development into perspective. Foreign investment may lead to an impressive skyline, but the roots of Redfern are ignored.

Lucy Smith, a British business designer who has recently taken up residence in Redfern, had a fresh perspective to offer on the situation.

“Society is here to lift up the less fortunate, not to pretend they don’t exist. We can’t just sweep them to the side, we need to integrate them.”

Such luxury real-estate developments suggest that there is little consideration being given regarding the future of Redfern’s public housing community. The investment in Surry Hills Shopping Village indicates the rise of a new Redfern, a hub of wealth and culture occupied exclusively by the well-to-do, and a growing disregard for the interests of Redfern’s less prosperous.

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