A section of the outside area og The Grounds.

A section of the outside area of The Grounds.

Sitting around the water feature.

Sitting around the water feature.

Yesterday I went with some friends to ‘The Grounds in Alexandria.’  Many of you have probably been, but it was the first time for me.  This is an enormously popular place & no wonder.  The food is great.  Prices are reasonable.  You can eat inside at a table or ‘take-away’ to eat outside in the extensive garden area.

Part of the outside signage.  Cute.

Part of the outside signage. Cute.

This post is not a restaurant review – though my meal was great.  What I am writing about is the site & what they have done with it.  The complex, located on the corner at 2 Huntley Street Alexandria, used to be the Four ‘n Twenty pie factory & had been so since the early 1900s.

The Grounds is in the heart of Alexandria’s industrial estate, where the street trees are really tall & the parking horrendous.  Once you walk through the entrance, all is forgiven, as the grounds are an utter delight.

On the left is the restaurant, easily found because of the line-up of people patiently waiting for a table.  In front & scattered around are barrows selling organic breads, tarts, coffee, cakes, fresh lemonade & other drinks, strawberries, nuts & even gelato.  The kiosks are beautiful, as are the displays of food.  Prices are well within the range of impulse buying & quite satisfying because of the quality.

To the left of the entrance is the ‘take-away’ food eating area. I should say areas, because the more you wander, the more the environment changes & you can sit anywhere to eat.  A massive pergola & clear roofed section with a few walls made out of recycled timber create an indoor/outdoor seating area.  Tables of all kinds are scattered around & people were everywhere.  Friday lunchtime was buzzing & I am told it is vibrant every day.

There are interesting tables made of industrial trolleys on steel wheels, complete with giant hooks that obviously dragged the trolleys through old factories.  Cleaned up, these look great & very chic.  There are places to sit in the sun, around a large water feature, under grape vines, in the shade & around raised garden beds.   There is even a glasshouse covered in vines with a large table inside – perfect for a group of 10-12 people to have a ‘private’ party.

They do wedding functions here, which is not a surprise to me at all.  I thought the place was extremely pretty.  Everywhere you look there are interesting items hanging from the ceiling, attached to walls or scattered around on the ground.  The set up is chic & colourful with real flowers growing in industrial containers all throughout the area.  I think you would notice something different each time you visited, simply because of the enormity of visual stimulation.   I also suspect the displays change with the seasons.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

Surrounding & intermingled are raised garden beds filled with herbs, flowers & other edible produce, which is used in the kitchen.  The Chef must pick what he/she needs for that day.  ‘No food miles’ is really sustainable & quite impressive for an industrial area in the inner city.

There is a florist onsite with an appealing selection of flowers.  Tucked in amongst the flowers are organic skin products & displays of industrial, vintage & other interesting items.  To their credit no plastic bags are used onsite.   I didn’t stay long enough to find the chickens & the resident pig – Kevin Bacon, but I am told they are there.  Apparently there is also a children’s playground area.

It’s part farm, part factory-like, part country & the mix is great.  Even outside on the street frontage they have planted gardens & shrubs, as well as strung ropes with Chinese Jasmine growing along the ropes.  Hanging pots dangle from signs or wrought iron scraps.  So much has been repurposed.

It’s obvious that great care has gone into the design of The Grounds.  It is not just a restaurant/café – it’s an experience & importantly, a green functional space in the inner west.  Who would have thought that an industrial complex could be transformed into a place where people can have a nature fix, as well as well as eat good healthy food?

It is their gardens & they way The Grounds have set up the area that prompted me to think that this could be the way of the future for our cities & our living spaces.

Right now it is known that businesses in green leafy environments generate 11% more income than those located in a mainly concrete/asphalt environment.  The fact that you can eat at The Grounds is just one of the functions of the complex & I can easily see something similar to The Grounds concept as part of any high-rise housing development.

A currently controversial development proposal to build a 16-storey residential tower next to the Marrickville Railway Station on Station Street is angering a considerable number of local residents.  See – http://bit.ly/18dbumc   As I understand it, the developer is offering a ground floor area for community use, half of which is under an awning, so he can get permission to bypass the eight stories limit that the Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP) imposes for this site.

This was spoken of by some Marrickville Councillors as a boon for the community, as it will offer a space to just hang out or be used for weekend markets.  My guess is people will still prefer to go to the Sunday Organic Growers Markets in the very green & leafy Addison Road Centre Marrickville.  This place offers a nature fix leaving you with the feeling that you have been somewhere away from concrete & asphalt.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place.  There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place. There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

In my opinion, all new high-rise housing developments should include green space, not just a tiled or concreted area with a seat or two & some token landscaping that is likely not to last the distance.  The Grounds has shown what can be done to create a great space that significantly increases the livability of an area & is valuable to the community.  It is much, much better than what is currently & has been on offer with development across Marrickville LGA.  Incidentally, The Grounds also has monthly markets on the first weekend of every month.

As Sydney gets more populated, our parks are going to be equally populated.  Marrickville has the Cooks River & already many families travel great distances to come to the riverside parks.  As time goes on, these & other parks will become busier, so we need to have other spaces that double up as green space & recreational areas.  After yesterday’s experience, I can easily see how new housing/shopping developments can offer more.

The proposed new Marrickville Library is also a prime opportunity to step outside the box of what has been done for decades & provide something as innovative & useful as The Grounds.  This would see us into the future in a way that is environmentally sustainable in a people way, not just about water use, air-flow & the like.

Marrickville municipality has the dubious honour of having the least green space in Australia, so new developments really need to be different & provide green space, even if mixed with business, to ensure a sane population in the future.  That Marrickville was identified as the unhappiest suburb in Australia also bears mentioning.   Improving livability needs to be at the forefront of architectural design.  The more confined people’s living arrangements become in the future, as more & more apartment blocks are being developed, the more people will be needing open natural space close to home.

I’ve said enough.  Well done to The Grounds in Alexandria.  They pushed the gauntlet in a very successful & beautiful way.  Go visit their website.  There is heaps going on, including workshops in coffee roasting & gardening.  http://groundsroasters.com/

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the many seating areas.

One of the many seating areas.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Everywhere you look you seen green.

Everywhere you look you seen green.  This is good for people.

 

 

 

 

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