Newtowns of the World

by Urbane Property

There’s no place like Newtown – at least not in Sydney. A combination of an avant-garde arts scene, diverse, progressive community and lively buzz makes our patch of the inner west unique. It also makes it a kindred spirit to other great bohemian neighbourhoods around the globe. Here’s a snapshot of the Newtowns of the world.

Kreuzberg, Berlin

After World War II, rent control measures saw Kreuzberg become a run-down, gritty district of Berlin, with its affordability making it a haven for students, artists and new migrants. Meanwhile in post-war Newtown, the affordability of the working class enclave drew its own share of students and migrants. Both areas have seen significant gentrification over recent decades, and while the price of housing has shot up, the creative scene and cosmopolitan dining options have remained. The inner west is a thriving hub for street artists, but there’s nothing quite like the East Side Gallery, a 1.3km-plus stretch of murals painted along a portion of the Berlin Wall.

Wynwood, Miami

A relatively new arrival to the world’s hipster scene, Wynwood was considered a dangerous no-go zone until the early 2000s when its proximity to the beach and downtown Miami could no-longer be overlooked. Since then, creatives have been flocking to the area’s abandoned warehouses, and the hipsters have followed. Like Newtown and its surrounds, Wynwood is the place to go for microbrews, street art and live indie music. Environmental awareness is also gaining momentum. Wynwood’s Colony1 development has plans to provide the community with environmental education, water treatment wetlands and community gardens, among other initiatives. Across the globe in the inner west, our area’s environmental initiatives are already well-established, from community gardens and the award-winning Sydney Park Wetlands, to the promotion of sustainable development through the Inner West Sustainable Building Award.

Shoreditch, London

If you’d like to welcome an antique carnival clown or Indian tea chest into your house, Shoreditch is the place to go. Weird and wonderful vintage finds are among the similarities between this creative corner of East London and the inner west. The area also has a burgeoning green economy, with package-free grocers, sustainable fashion and even a sustainable pub, mirroring the many similar business in Newtown. Other parallels include a profusion of street art, independent theatres and eclectic markets. The nightlife is equally lively, and while Newtown’s Holey Moley bar lets punters enjoy a round of putt-putt with their tipple, Bounce is the Shoreditch equivalent, bringing ping pong and pints together.

Koenji, Tokyo

Left-leaning neighbourhoods are rare in conservative Japan, making Koenji, Tokyo a stand-out. The progressive area share’s the inner west’s widespread anti-nuclear stance, with mass protests in Koenji making global headlines after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It’s a place where anything goes and live music thrives, including Japan’s underground punk scene. As Tokyo’s go-to neighbourhood for vintage clothing and records, hip eateries and cool bars, it’s a little slice of Newtown in Japan.

Canal St Martin, Paris

If you want to see world-famous masterpieces, go to the Louvre. If street art is more your style, head to Canal St Martin – the Parisian equivalent to the inner west. People-watchers who enjoy the passing parade along King Street should sample the visual feast in this district of north-eastern Paris. Undergoing a process of gentrification, this traditionally working-class area is where the bourgeoisie and bohemians now mingle. Young model-types, scruffy students and hip professionals rub shoulders in its many cafes and bars, or on street corners watching buskers perform.


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