Melbourne’s gentrifying west attracting trendy small businesses

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Kristine Brown and her husband, former AFL footballer husband Nathan Brown, at their premium candle and perfume business, which has shifted from Armadale to Williamstown. Picture: Jason Edwards

Melbourne’s gentrifying inner west has become a hot spot for trendy small businesses — even pinching some of them from the city’s east and south.

The area’s industrial past is making way for an entrepreneurial future, experts say, with drawcards including affordability and closeness to the CBD, ports and Melbourne airport luring savvy business owners.

AFL footballer-turned-commentator Nathan Brown and his wife Kristine shifted their thriving boutique candle and perfume company, SOH Melbourne, from Armadale’s fashionable High St to Williamtown’s Pontington Business Park about two months ago.

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Creswick Creative’s Scott Creswick, Erica Welsh and Jason King. The business has set up in Yarraville, moving from South Melbourne.

Video production company Creswick Creative — whose clients include Disney, Marvel, Universal and ESPN — also moved from South Melbourne into Yarraville’s Sugarhill Business Park.

Sugarhill’s Whitehall St site has an industrial history as a base for Murphy Transport, which for decades carted products for CSR Sugar mill. It now features 38 units that can be bought or leased by business owners.

Handcrafted wood furniture business Hedgehog and Acorn has also set up shop at Yarraville’s The Base.

Bespoke furniture business Hedgehog and Acorn has set up shop at a Yarraville business park.

Bosisto Commercial director Glyn Bosisto said about 750 new industrial units had been built by the private sector in the inner west — in suburbs including Footscray, Brooklyn, Spotswood, Altona North, Williamstown, Yarraville and Sunshine — since 2012. A pipeline of 450 further units is also proposed.

“To see similar redevelopment in the north, you would need to go to Epping, in the east, to Dandenong or Pakenham, and in the south, to Cheltenham,” Mr Bosisto said.

“The inner west has an enormous advantage (being so close) to the CBD, ports and airports, and to highly qualified labour markets.”

Mr Bosisto said the west’s industrial past ensured its roads were superior to other inner-city hubs, being wider and well connected to major arterials.

And the new West Gate Tunnel — an alternative to the West Gate Bridge that’s due for completion in 2022 — “should open up the inner west even more”, the agent said.

He added it was much cheaper to rent or buy commercial units there — especially at an entry level, where the typical purchase cost of about $250,000 was 50 per cent cheaper than “anywhere else close to the CBD”.

Kristine Brown, with husband Nathan, said part of her reason for moving west was a desire to make coming to work appealing for her staff. Picture: Jason Edwards

Former Maribyrnong mayor Cameron McDonald said lifestyle perks that had boosted the inner west’s residential market — including access to public transport, popular eateries and shops — had also helped its commercial sector by making the region desirable for businesses’ staff.

Ms Brown said this was an important factor when she and her husband, a former Western Bulldogs and Richmond star, were seeking a warehouse, perfume lab and office space for their growing wholesale and online business SOH.

“We wanted to make sure our staff were excited about coming to work,” she said.

“Many of our staff live in the west.”

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