Melbourne suburbs in a New York state of mind

Article by Olivia Lambert / /
May 14, 2017 /
Click here to view original /

THERE is a deluded bid to rebadge former working class Melbourne suburbs like West Footscray and North Coburg to sell more real estate.

In an attempt to appeal to hipsters, real estate developers are giving Melbourne suburbs a New York makeover.

In New York City, some trendy suburbs have shortened names, making them more appealing to millennials.

There’s SoHo, which refers to the area being South of Houston Street and DUMBO, a spot in Brooklyn that is down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Now Melburnians are trying to revamp some of its city neighbourhoods by doing the same thing.

But it doesn’t really have the same effect, and the new names don’t quite roll off the tongue.

West Footscray is now being labelled WeFo, North Coburg, CoNo and Moonee Ponds, MoPo.

Modern New York-style apartments have urbanised Moonee Ponds, and in true New York fashion, a new complex has been named “MoPo”.

A mystery development called “WeFo” is also about the be announced for West Footscray.

The up-and-coming suburb is about 7km from Melbourne’s CBD and was historically a place for blue-collar workers who were employed at one of the many industrial factories.

West Footscray has slowly started to gentrify since the closure of the car part factory, CMI Industrial, in 2012.

Across the Maribyrnong River is Moonee Ponds. It’s the home of Barry Humphries’ fictional housewife-megastar Dame Edna and was just a chain of waterholes back in the 1830s.

University of Melbourne’s pop-culture expert, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, said while there was a tongue-in-cheek element to names like MoPo, they gave a certain charm to suburbs that weren’t historically considered that way.

“Think Target/Targét,” she said.

“There’s also an element of real estate spin, to fuel interest in suburbs that may not be on everybody’s radar yet.”

Dr Rosewarne said using SoHo-like names for places in Melbourne was just another way it was becoming more like the Big Apple.

“There are lots of ways Melbourne is already like New York — exorbitant real estate prices and overcrowded public transportation as two examples,” she said.

She believes names like WeFo, MoPo and CoNo are not likely to stick, as the more they appear, the daggier they’ll become.

“The genuine hipster interest in names like WeFo and MoPo will promptly fade once the masses start to use these terms,” Dr Rosewarne said.

“I’m not convinced of the take-up rate of any of these names. Just as no one in practice ever really talks about the ‘Paris end of Collins Street’ or the ‘West End’ of Melbourne.

“Such terms have a life in newspaper copy but not so in ordinary conversations among those of us who simply find it less wanky to just say ‘North Coburg’ rather than ‘CoNo’.”

Design agency Savi is part of the MoPo project and director Michelle Savona told the development was for locals, downsizers and young professionals who could not afford houses but did not want to leave the area.

“The name MoPo came from the locals,” she said.

“We did a lot of research with locals prior to marketing this project and found that they referred to this area as MoPo. We always avoid ‘lending’ names from abroad as they can appear a little try hard but MoPo felt right as we always strive to have a local voice with project marketing and the name was there for the taking.”

Melbourne has been modelling itself on New York City with a rise in apartments imitating that Sex and the City type of residence.

Real estate agents market certain apartments as being a New York-style to attract more keen buyers.

High-rise residential towers with stylish interiors and panoramic city views are dominating inner-city suburbs.

“[Younger buyers] have found the detached housing market hard to get into and the apartment market is a more affordable option,” said BIS Shrapnel senior manager Angie Zigomanis.

“As cities get bigger and more congested, many who work in the city would also like it to be easier to commute to and from work.”