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Fairfield was the site of Victoria’s first tram – horse drawn, with an open top deck. Passengers in top hats squeezed aboard for a three-kilometre ride along Station Street. The bone-rattling novelty would make the modern safety auditor recoil.
The tram was a sales gimmick dreamt up by businessman extraordinaire Charles Henry James, who had a vision to subdivide “Fairfield Park”, named after a place in Derbyshire, England. He mustered the well-heeled to buy small acreages for “gentleman residences” on the Yarra River.
Also on the Yarra is the famed Fairfield Park Boathouse, a Melbourne low-key, high-impact landmark. Six kilometres from the central business district, one rower described the setting as “feeling like a million miles from civilisation”. It’s purpose as a place for refreshments remains intact, with scones served and plenty of spots for picnics.
The Fifteen Pounds cafe in Fairfield. The postcode’s proximity to the city and appeal to families gives it a very strong market, with a low turnover. Photo: Darrian Traynor
There’s also a riverside bike ride, which stretches 22 kilometres to Eltham.
Now, there’s a cafe named after C.H. James – part of the revival of the Station Street strip, which also features the busy eatery Mamma Says. But for those who want to cook for themselves, there’s a farmers’ market at the primary school.
In contrast to the silk-and-diamonds design approach of James, the area’s latest talking-point development is pared back. The Nightingaleapartment block, with neither car parks nor air-conditioning, was recently given the go-ahead by VCAT. Objectors were concerned about the lack of parking, but the tribunal allowed the project because it is adjacent to Fairfield railway station. Designed by sustainable architects, it also features rainwater toilets and follows a “social business model”, allowing only owner-occupiers, in a push to address affordability.
The Fairfield Park Boathouse is a a Melbourne low-key high-impact landmark six kilometres from the central business district. Photo: Darrian Traynor
Local agent Anthony De Iesi says the postcode’s proximity to the city and its appeal to families gives it a very strong market, with a low turnover.
“In the past 12 months, there’s been a 10 to 15 per cent growth,” he says
Businessman C.H. James would today approvingly survey the bustling site of his ingenious sales technique, which now boasts 89 businesses. He might do a double-take at the six-metre wooden canine (FIDO) which is part of a public arts program, but as a purveyor of firsts with flair, he’d likely also tip his hat to that.
This article first appeared on www.domain.com.au
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