Eastlakes: How one of the last ‘hidden gems’ of Sydney’s east is set for a $1 billion development

Eastlakes is arguably one of the last hidden gems in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Photo: Supplied

Just when you thought every inch of the eastern suburbs had been buffed to a high sheen by renovators and developers, along comes a surprise package.

Eastlakes is arguably one of the last hidden gems in the east. Eight kilometres south of the Sydney CBD, it’s home to about 7000 people, a scruffy-looking shopping centre and two golf courses (The Lakes and Eastlake), with several more a few kilometres away. Unusually for this part of the world, it also boasts vast expanses of parkland, including Eastlakes Reserve and the ribbons of green space near the lake system after which the suburb was named.

With a median house price of $1.675 million in 2017 – up from $662,000 a decade earlier – Eastlakes hasn’t missed out on Sydney’s property boom. That said, it still costs much less on average to buy here compared with Kingsford and Kensington, and marginally less than in Rosebery, where the median house price last year was $1.745 million.

Eastlakes Live by Crown Group is a $1 billion project set to revitalise the town centre of the suburb. Photo: Artist Impression

Add a broader demographic mix than some of the region’s most affluent neighbourhoods and you have an area with enormous potential for buyers who want an eastern-suburbs lifestyle without the eastern-suburbs price tag.

Against this backdrop, a new 2.4-hectare, mixed-use development is predicted to be a game-changer for the suburb. Eastlakes Live by Crown Group is a $1 billion project set to revitalise the town centre with nearly 600 high-end apartments and an impressive array of shops, cafes, restaurants and community amenities.

The first stage comprises 134 apartments and 12 retail outlets in three buildings up to eight storeys’ high at the northern edge of the site near Gardeners Road. Due to hit the market in early June, the homes range from one-bedroom units to three-bedroom penthouses with golf-course and city-skyline views. A second, much larger, stage is slated to include the remaining homes and the town centre, with two major supermarkets, a restaurant promenade and street-facing cafes.

Acclaimed Sydney-based firm Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, or fjmt, has designed the architecture and interiors. Photo: Artist Impression

Acclaimed Sydney-based firm Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, or fjmt, has designed the architecture and interiors. The design director of fjmt, Richard Francis-Jones, says he sees the site’s beauty – and its potential.

“It’s like any area of Sydney that evolves and changes,” Francis-Jones says. “You’ve got to look at its great qualities and bring them to the fore; to make it more itself. Part of this undiscovered quality is that it hasn’t been realising its potential.”

The lush green foreground of Eastlakes Reserve is given a starring role in the design, courtesy of an oversized reinterpretation of an Australian classic. The Western Terrace is a “verandah” on a massive scale, facing west onto the reserve with restaurants and cafes underneath the monumental structure leading to an internal retail marketplace.

The interiors use natural colours and materials inspired by the sand and the warm greys and tones of eucalypts. Photo: Artist Impression

“We love that environment of sitting with a glass of wine watching the sun going down. It’s a wonderful part of what living in Sydney can be.”

The character of the building takes on a sinuous form related to the natural curves of the landscape rather than the hard edges often found in inner-city living.

“That idea runs through the architecture and it runs through the interiors, with a really soft palette and slightly curved geometries in some of the details,” Francis-Jones says.

The site will have nearly 600 high-end apartments and an array of shops, cafes, restaurants and community amenities. Photo: Artist Impression

Whereas the public areas are intended to create a dynamic community hub buzzing with life and activity, the apartments are designed to be more tranquil living environments, separated from the new urban hub via a series of communal gardens.

A focal point of the design is Oculus, a water feature that looks like a circular glazed pool at the garden level. Underneath, it appears as a watery skylight casting dappled sunlight onto the shopping areas below. Other amenities include a gym, 25-metre outdoor pool, function room and rooftop garden with lounge and bar.

Inside the apartments, vertical louvres will be used to enhance the sense of privacy and highlight the view.

A focal point of the design is Oculus, a water feature that looks like a circular glazed pool at the garden level. Photo: Artist Impression

“The interiors use natural colours and materials inspired by the sand and the warm greys and tones of eucalypts,” Francis-Jones says. “What we’re looking to do here is something that is very light and very subtle, but also timeless.”

Crown Group has experience working on large-scale redevelopments in areas that are undergoing gentrification, from Parramatta to Green Square and Waterloo. Eastlakes Live is its biggest project to date.

“Pioneering is always fresh for us,” Crown Group co-founder and chairman Iwan Sunito says. “Ten or 15 years ago, no one wanted to live in Waterloo. We see Eastlakes as the next suburb that’s going to grow.”

The first stage of the project is due for completion mid-2021. Photo: Artist Impression

Coogee Beach is five kilometres to the east. Rosebery’s hip foodie precinct, with Three Blue Ducks, The Cannery and Archie Rose Distilling Co, is two kilometres away. The Grounds of Alexandria is about 10 minutes away by car. There’s a bus stop on Gardeners Road, with services to Mascot station, Surry Hills and the city. The Kingsford terminus of the light rail, which will be up and running well before the first homes are completed, is less than two kilometres away. Randwick’s hospital and university precinct are also within easy commuting distance.

Being so close to Sydney Airport is good news for frequent flyers and prospective buyers turned off by soaring high-rises. “What’s wonderful is that density of this area is actually really low,” Sunito says. “The height is determined by the aeroplanes.”

Sunito predicts Australia will continue to embrace the international trend of developing self-contained precincts offering residents everything at their doorstep. “I see it as the way of the future; it’s about a place of connectivity.”

Three Blue Ducks is one of several eateries in nearby Rosebery to which Eastlakes residents will have easy access. Photo: Michele Mossop

He is especially pleased to be collaborating with Richard Francis-Jones, who was one of his architecture lecturers at the University of NSW nearly three decades ago.

“When I was a student, I was designing houses and he was … working on some of the most amazing buildings in Australia,” Sunito says. “Back then, I looked at him as someone who was too high to reach but today what’s wonderful is that we share the same passion.”

Source: Elicia Murray, “Eastlakes: How one of the last ‘hidden gems’ of Sydney’s east is set for a $1 billion development”, Domain, May 25 2018.

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Eastlakes: How one of the last ‘hidden gems’ of Sydney’s east is set for a $1 billion development