Melbourne day 2
Laneway culture is intense here. The city has the perceptual feel and grain of a medeival city, yet stuck into a 90 degree grid network. Down about half of the alleys, you will find a restaurant, secret bar, or coffeehouse. After meeting with Robert Moore, head urban planner for the city council of Melbourne, I realize this is not a historic thing. This has been a slow transformation since the 1980’s lead by a visionary collaboration between the city and Gehl architects, and a series of consultants. The city has tried to draw the creative class back into the city with the slow building of residential buildings and the upgrading of streets, parks, and laneways. They have a huge focus on public space that really is perceivable as you move through the city.
Regarding the amazing myriad of cool bars in lane ways, I had a great discussion with the bar staff at Sister Bella, off a hidden alley regarding the role of the liquor license in this culture. Depending on the length of operation per day, you pay more for a license. There is a sweet deal between lower lease rates for back alley spaces, the right license, and the right degree of food or drink to be served that determines if a bar is profitable enough to try out for potential investors. Sister Bella is owned by one of the original lane way bar owners, St. Jerome, who has spawned an annual music festival that takes place in January in Melbourne, and now Sydney and a couple other major Australian cities. I was also fortunate to be lead to the Croft Institute, an old chemistry lab in a back alley that has maintained the vibe with a plethora of chemistry measuring tools, beakers, etc. strewn about the bar in jewel cases. You find it by going down a c-shaped dead-end alley then heading up a flight of stairs in what I assume is the fire-stair for the building. They have another floor 3 floors up. This type of space lends the city the feeling of a real collage. Pictures to be posted when I am back!
ALSO, THANKS TO ALL THAT ATTENDED THE ALLEY PARTIES ON THURSDAY! I am sorry I was unable to be there but please see the overview of how it went down here – http://www.thenewpioneersquare.com/first-thursday-recap/