WeWork and the growth of Sydney’s tech precincts

June 28, 2017 / By  

WeWork launched in Sydney in late 2016 and now has three locations across the city – 333 George Street, 5 Martin Place and 100 Harris Street. Sydney has embraced the co-working model and WeWork differentiates its product through providing a sense of community and a level of service more associated with the high end hospitality sector.

We have started to refer to Martin Place as ‘Silicon Place’ after the clustering of tech-related firms in the precinct. Technology sectors, in major cities around the world, have shown a desire to cluster in order to achieve the benefits of economies of agglomeration. Specifically, they are seeking knowledge spill-overs and the sharing of ideas amongst a diverse range of individuals. The presence of WeWork consolidates Martin Place as a globally recognised tech precinct.

Tech precincts are not only concentrated in CBDs – they have evolved in former industrial precincts, in close proximity to the CBD, where significant gentrification has occurred. San Francisco has South of Market Street (SOMA), New York has the Meatpacking district, and London has the rather than blandly name East London Tech City. Fortunately, Londoners are known for having innovative precinct and building names and the precinct has gained a more colloquial term – ‘Silicon Roundabout’.

The characteristics of these precincts include: a growing and highly educated population; close proximity to educational facilities; and the prevalence of converted warehouse facilities for residential and commercial use. Our analysis of these precincts also shows the presence of multiple WeWork facilities and Google as a major occupier.

That brings us back to Sydney and the largest WeWork tenancy in Sydney is 100 Harris Street, Pyrmont: the suburb where Google has been located since 2008. The gentrification of Pyrmont mirrors the former industrial precincts outlined earlier. Pyrmont went through a period of urban decline in the 1960s and 1970s, with the population dropping to only 1,500 people in 1980. The resident population in Pyrmont is now back to an estimated 14,500 people. New residential development activity and strong demand from owner-occupiers will see Pyrmont’s population grow at a rate well above the metropolitan Sydney average.

What Sydney is really lacking is an innovative branding of the Pyrmont tech precinct, similar to what we have generated for Martin Place (Silicon Place). Initially, I thought we could aim for something like West of Darling Harbour or WDH for the precinct. On reflection, we have done well with Martin Place, but the Pyrmont branding requires further work – any suggestions?

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