Macquarie University’s new library is open till 10pm for refreshments, an oasis in an area of scant facilities

5 January 2012 – Plans are at last progressing to turn the rapidly developing residential and industrial heart of the Sydney suburbs of Macquarie Park and North Ryde into a more vibrant community centre – but it will still take time.

For the many residents of the area including students and staff at Macquarie University and for those working in the offices around the industrial area of Macquarie Park, the food and entertainment hub has been the Macquarie shopping centre. But its shops close at 5.30pm – excluding late night Thursday shopping – with the exception of one or two major supermarkets.

You can imagine the complaints from students who come from 24-hour cities like Beijing and Tokyo let alone locals. If you run out of milk at 10pm, forget it till the morning. Then you have to go into a large supermarket in the shopping centre just to buy a carton – unless you get it at a campus shop which closes around 7pm most nights.

There are no convenience stores in this area. Early or late night ones.

According to urban planners Urbis, this corridor has emerged as a sought after scientific and technology business park over the past 10-15 years. So where are the smaller shops which open all hours ? The cafes, the entertainment spots ?

The only ones nearby are the popular student’s watering hole, The Ranch and the more upmarket Stamford Hotel both in Herring Road. Or you hop on a train or bus for the 45 minute ride to the city.

However, residential development continues at a fast rate, even if the facilities to complement it are not around.

Ian Cady, associate director urban planning at Urbis, says the developers have been involved in half a dozen recent major projects in the Macquarie Park/North Ryde corridor.

Stage 1 of Toga’s Macquarie Central residential project at 128 Herring Rd was recently released and 90 per cent of the 244 apartments offered were sold in a single morning.

Typical 50 square metre one bed apartments with parking sold for $515,000, while 70 square metre two-bed apartments sold for $630,000. This represented a very healthy $8000 – $9000 a square metre. Three bed-apartments were less popular during the initial release.

Demographic analysis undertaken by Urbis social planning identified that Macquarie Park has a young adult population (average 31 years) with few children. A very high proportion of the population is from overseas (Asian born) with university qualifications.

The proportions of lone person and apartment households (40 per cent and 73 per cent respectively) are very high by Sydney standards.  However, contrary to some market expectations, the majority of apartments were sold to locals, not overseas investors, with high employment growth and transport accessibility being major attractors.

The emergence of a high density localised residential apartment market is considered to be a transitory step for the area feeding off ongoing growth in localised education and commercial precincts. .

Hot on the heels of the Macquarie Central Project are applications for major residential projects by EGC Funds (Allengrove, 196 apartments & Whiteside, 213 apartments ), St Hilliers (232 apartments) and the Stamford Plaza Redevelopment (625 apartments in seven buildings which range in scale from eight to 22 storeys).

Stamford is proposing 1020sqm of retail and commercial space, in addition to a 230 square metres community facility.

While the final composition of uses within the commercial/retail space has not been resolved there is likely to be a convenience store, café and similar retailing. The final tenancy and operating hours will be resolved at a later stage of the project.

One of the few cafes in North Ryde

ut there is no certainty on timing, Mr Cady says. The project is in two stages and the second stage would likely not be completed for another one to three years.

A 168 room hotel including ground floor restaurant/cafe and bar is also proposed in the area.

For those walking around the usually deserted streets a few blocks from the Macquarie University campus you can grab a coffee before 10pm at the university’s new library.

Mark Fowler, general manager, retail services, Campus Experience at the university said there was regular daily and weekly entertainment in the Atrium building and the Ubar on level 2 of Campus Hub, which is not just confined to students.