Oxford Street hub is a hive of activity

Almost 70 start-up businesses, including designers, online video producers, architects and artists, have set up shop in the City’s Oxford Street creative spaces in its first seven months.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the wide range of exciting projects highlighted the flexibility of the workspaces, as well as the urgent need for affordable creative space in the city.

“Commercial rents are increasingly beyond the reach of many start-ups, but affordable spaces give them room to take risks,” the Lord Mayor said.

“By attracting people to the lower end of Oxford Street, they’re also helping to increase business for their neighbours, so it’s proving a win for everyone.”

The 18 spaces are leased by enterprises that in some cases sub-let desk and retail space to small start-ups, which otherwise would not have an opportunity – or the means – to work from professional spaces in the heart of the city.

As well as the small business tenants getting productive in the office spaces, there are retail spaces fronting onto Oxford Street that operate a revolving round of short-term social ventures.

Under New Management, at 118 Oxford Street, and He Made She Made, at 70 Oxford Street, both featured Christmas-themed retail pop-ups offering sustainable, locally handcrafted oils, honey and coffee, and even a curated artist market with stalls from emerging designers.

“The City deliberately took a leadership role with this project, and we hope other property owners along the strip will see what can be achieved,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Landlords can either have empty buildings no-one can afford, or full productive office spaces that generate a strong local economy.”

The Oxford Street tenants have been measuring their success with quarterly surveys that capture details of employees, business type, activity and customer interactions, local spend on goods and services, and collaborative projects. Results from the first two surveyed periods include:

  • The 18 tenants have spent $240,000 in the local cafés, restaurants and on other business services, providing an economic boost to the local area;
  • The project farewelled its first ‘graduate’ in September, event listing website Aroundyou.com.au, after the company’s team increased from six to 16 people, and outgrew the Oxford Street workspace;
  • The program has provided workspace for 171 people, 40 per cent of whom are also local residents;
  • Almost 2,500 people with the intention of doing business have visited the spaces; and
  • The program started with 16 spaces, adding two more recently, and following its success, the City will expand the concept to 101-111 William Street in early 2013.

Spaces like Homework and the Sydney Writers Room are providing collaborative space for independent creative people, producers, artists, writers and designers in a large co-working space.

Homework is currently office space for 10 different businesses, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Individuals can become a member of Homework and be on the list for the next available hot desk.

Platform 72 and He Made She Made are flexible retail/gallery shopfront spaces, showcasing more than 200 artist and designers since the project started, including Rouse Phillips Textile Studio, one of the project’s other tenants.

“I can’t imagine where we’d be without this space. We owe it a lot,” Rouse PhilIips’ Anastasia Phillips said.

“We’ve also been able to develop ideas on a much larger scale  ̶  we’re very, very happy to be here.”

The creative duo launched their first-ever collection of home textiles last month.

“We’ve met some people who’ve been really supportive and given us a platform to show our work.”

The Oxford Street Cultural & Creative Spaces program was established by the City in February 2012 in a bid to redefine the lower end of Oxford Street as a hub for creative enterprise.

The City works closely with all the tenants to monitor the cultural and economic impact of the Oxford Street Cultural & Creative Spaces initiative.


For more information, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Keeley Irvin, phone 0448 005 718 or email kirvin@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au


For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Matt Levinson, phone 0427 044 768 or email mlevinson@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au