The prestigious harbourside suburb of Double Bay has been undergoing a transformation. Once considered the Rodeo Drive of Sydney, Double Bay experienced a slump in the 2000s with up to 60 per cent retail vacancy rates.
But the past few years have seen the suburb reach new peaks. With the refurbishment of the Intercontinental Hotel, a raft of new boutiques and bars, and the opening of the popular library and Kiaora Lane precinct, the suburb is resuming its status as one of the places in Sydney to be seen.
Located four kilometres east of Sydney’s CBD, Double Bay has traditionally been home to an older demographic, although increasingly young professionals have discovered the suburb’s charms along with its excellent transport links, which include a network of buses along New South Head Road, ferries and the nearby Edgecliff train station.
Claire Fabb has lived in Double Bay for three years after moving from Sydney’s north side. A key attraction, she says, is the community feel, which never feels overly busy.
“There is such a beautiful community vibe despite the fact the area has undergone a lot of development recently,” she says. “This has actually added to its appeal, especially with the redevelopment of the Kiaora Lane precinct, which is a wonderful dining hub with restaurants and cafes such as China Diner, About Life, Little Jean and Bake Bar. And of course the library takes centre stage.”
Unusual as it might seem, the Woollahra Library at Double Bay is a highlight. It reopened last year and is a constant hive of activity with green walls, study rooms, a reading room with a fireplace and even a slippery dip for the children.
“The library is a work of art,” Fabb says. “It is so beautifully designed. I go down there with my daughters and read books and just have some quiet time because the space is so beautiful.”
And Kiaora Lane itself, Fabb says, is almost like a central shopping hub within that area of Double Bay. “There is a new buzz happening since it opened. We actually prefer to stay local when it comes to restaurants or other services as Double Bay has got everything you need.”
Fabb believes many people moving to Double Bay are downsizing or are retirees, as “there are a lot of beautiful apartments”.
“It is still an attractive place no matter what age you are,” she says. “There is the 18-Footers bar at the wharf that is always jam-packed with an older crowd. I don’t think the older generation is moving away from here at all, but rather there is a younger crowd coming in.”
Fellow local resident Denise Straty moved to Double Bay from Bondi 18 months ago and loves the area, noting the number of cafes and restaurants that have opened up over this time.
“But what I really love is that people seem to care a lot for their buildings and apartment blocks,” she says. “There is a sense of people putting in effort to keep their gardens nice and to keep things clean. Even if it’s an apartment block it’s really well maintained and this makes it a lovely suburb to just walk around.”
Straty also finds the proximity to the harbour a key attraction. “Steyne Park is lovely and there is a ferry at Rose Bay and Double Bay so there is great access to the city,” she says. “We just don’t tell anyone about Redleaf pool [now called Murray Rose pool] because we prefer that remains a secret.”
Accommodation styles in the suburb are predominantly Art Deco apartments and Victorian town houses but a development known as 1788 by SJD Group will be one of the first newly available apartment blocks in Double Bay in a while.
CBRE’s Ben Stewart, who is marketing the development, says he has seen a change in the type of people living in and visiting Double Bay.
“Traditionally it was an older market – and it still is a downsizer market – but there is also a younger demographic coming in,” he says. “However, empty nesters are a big part of the area as they like the village lifestyle.”
With architecture and interiors by Bates Smart, Stewart says 1788 is designed to attract the older demographic and is setting a new benchmark in Sydney in terms of finishes. “It offers bespoke luxury in every sense, the marble, the stone floors, the curved veneer in the kitchen, and the finishes are the best I’ve seen,” he says. “The majority of units are facing north so the aspect is really good, and it’s a low-maintenance development so it’s low cost to maintain.”
He adds the development is attracting a lot of interest from people downsizing from homes in the local area, such as from Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill. “Those showing interest are after the convenience of the village lifestyle in an area where it is easy to get around and one that they know well,” he says. “The transport links are great and with the new shops and retailers there is everything they need on their doorstep.”