Oct 31

In Ultimo-related news, the new Central Park Sydney development in Chippendale is open today. We went to the opening, and had a wander. It’s a big mall inside (no surprises there), and surprisingly large inside.

For those living on the western end of Ultimo, Central Park offers some handy amenities (including things that for a long time have been missing).

There’s some park space to loll around in, a grocery store, a pharmacy, a newsagent, a bank, a liquor shop, and an assortment of mostly mainstream food & clothing chains, plus the Japanese store Daiso, which apparently sells everything. There are toilets (very handy), exhibition spaces, and a lot of bright flickering filtered light and, at the moment, a whole lot of healthy looking indoor & outdoor plants. It’s a capitalist’s Eden.

Oct 30

1943 Maps

Yes, yes, as you know, Penultimo is dormant in 2013, but we’ve recently made a Penultimo-worthy discovery and we’d love to share it with you.

Ever wanted to go back in time on Google maps? Like, see an aerial view of your house, 70 years ago?

Well, if you’re in NSW, now you can.

It looks like there was a 1943 aerial survey that has been stitched together marvellously well.

This nifty maps tool enables you to swing between 1943 and approx 2012. It’s called SIX Maps, “an online mapping tool for NSW developed by LPI”. 

Honestly, it’s the best thing in the world since super crunchy peanut butter. Unfortunately the only year you can go back in time with is 1943, but who said a Tardis was a reliable machine anyhow?


Here are some examples of Ultimo in 1943. Not too many trees, and plenty of wool stores and factory buildings. The tram lines are still in working order. Darling Harbour Goods Yard is busy shunting goods from the harbour into Haymarket and down the railways…. the Government Printing Office site is vacant, and half of Wentworth Park is being used for the war effort. 


Check out Pyrmont too:


Jun 21

Given we now live in Redfern, the Penultimo blog has been ignored a little, of late. We simply can’t speak with any authority about Ultimo, any more, it wouldn’t be right. That said, from time to time we find things that are too good to keep to ourselves. Like this fabulous photograph (top) from NSW State Records. I came across it on their excellent Flickr feed. It shows the Post Office in Harris Street, Ultimo (at William Henry Street). The date is unknown, but it could be c. 1902+ … if the soap ad is anything to go by. The Power station was completed in 1899 to power electric trams. As you can see from the second photograph, the post office building still stands (now used as administrative space in the Powerhouse Museum). The contemporary image below is from the Sydney city blog

Mar 07

Anonymous said: Hello, I am a student journalist on assignment from UTS. I would like to explore recent community issues in Ultimo. Would Penultimo hint a few local issues which I could touch on or do some basic research on? Thank you.

Hi there,

We don’t want to do your homework for you! Also, we don’t live in Ultimo any more and so we cannot claim to have a good solid knowledge of “recent community issues” any more. Have a read of this blog, and other local media. Take a walk around Ultimo. Ask locals and shopkeepers what they’re concerned about. 



Feb 26

Sticking up for the UTS Tower Building

Why does Penultimo love the UTS Tower building? 

Sometimes we ought to keep our aesthetic opinions to ourselves. Other times, we like to share them with the few people who read page 79 of the Sun Herald. But the the SMH Online went and republished this opinion piece on March 1, 2013, and added a comments section, which is now full of all kinds of weird and wonderful rants about buildings in Sydney: the good, the bad, and the hideous. It’s great to see such passion about buildings. 

We would like to add one of the sentences we put in the copy but it was cut: 

"Seeing this building being preserved and reworked is a subtle and more preferable vision, compared to the proposed fate of the Darling Harbour Convention Centre.”

We also did note the name of the NSW Govt. Architect at the time - Ted Farmer - but that was cut from the copy too. 

Jan 14

Anonymous said: Any idea what is going to be built at the back of the Old Government Printing Office (aka Global Switch HQ)? Lots of digging with one shallow area alongside the main excavation and possibly half of the block to remain untouched.

It’s the extension to Global Switch. It will be another data centre entirely: 34,000 sq m of it. They’re calling it “Sydney 2”. Here is the link to an old press release about it.  It’s an old Part 3A approval … we weren’t sure what was going to happen with the change of government, but it looks as though things are still going as planned for Global Switch, at least. 

Dec 17

Penultimo’s op-ed gets a run on a quiet summer monday

The Sydney Morning Herald has this little opinion piece today:

Penultimo carrying on about pedestrian / cycling linkages in the proposed revamp of Darling Harbour. 

Dec 06

UTS to close Kuring-gai; Acquiring that crazy pink building in Ultimo

Oh my! Penultimo DIDN’T cover the UTS crane accident? What is the world coming to? 

Well, firslty, EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING was covering the crane accident, and we didn’t feel the need to add to the saturation.


So, instead, we’ve nicked this photo from the Australian and put it up here. We liked this image because it was the one of the few that shows the UTS sign (bottom left): 10 Reasons to Choose UTS. Oh yes. 

Now … since this blog is in “dormant” form, and we don’t live in Ultimo any more, we make no claim to thoroughly follow the affairs of this suburb, at present. That said, from time to time we like to make little contributions, here and there.

And here’s one:


Remember the lovely TAFE Building U? Well … with TAFE shrinking of late (sad face), and with UTS expanding of late, UTS will be acquiring Tafe’s remarkable Building U. We love Building U for all the wrong reasons. It’s a gorgeous pink modern atrocity. It’s just brilliant. Of course, with UTS acquiring it, this will probably mean it will be demolished or substantially renovated, and before they do that, we promise a thorough photo essay.

UTS will be closing their Kuring-gai campus at Lindfield (in 2015), and shifting everything to Ultimo / Haymarket. The Lindfield site will be acquired by the government, to be turned into a high school, or something like that. 

Here’s an old post from Penultimo on Building U

Nov 14

Why the Goods Line will not be the High Line

The Goods Line could, in fact, be better than New York’s High Line. And here’s why.


At Pentultimo we’ve been rattling on about the marvellous urban possibilities of the UPN since 2010. See these former posts: What Ultimo can learn from the High LineUPN: Sexier than it sounds; Multiple stakeholders for the Ultimo Pedestrian Network5 Places to watch in Ultimo; Respondents to the UPN Tender; Starchitects are out, Linkages are in.

It’s nice to see that this shit is finally gettin’ real. 

Today in the SMH, Leesha McKenny has a masthead story anouncing the Ultimo Pedestrian Network Stage 2 proposal. Aspect Studios have been working on the proposal with Choi Ropiha Fighera, and they have now released some fancy visualisations. (Aspect Studios did Darling Quarter and Angel Place / Ash Street.)

And guess what, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority have wisely realised that “UPN” is not a good name, and given it a half decent one: The Goods Line.

Alright, that’ll do. It was once a goods line, in the industrial sense … and it might yet be quite good. The jury is out on that, at least until 2014.

For those of you who are currently thinking - what the hell is this thing? - let us explain. The Goods Line will be an elevated pedestrian & cycling pathway that will extend north from the back of the Devonshire Tunnel in Ultimo. It will continue over a disused railway bridge at Ultimo Road, past the soon-to-be built Gehry building (Dr Chau Chak Wing) and down towards the Powerhouse Museum. It will be elevated 4 metres above ground, and will be a carefully crafted urban space. There might be pop up cafes, there might be urban kitchen gardens and other planted features … and there might be some interactive light artworks. Just a guess. It will be only 500 metres in length. Pretty short compared to New York’s High Line, but let’s not discuss that, yet.  

Now, in an ideal world, the Goods Line would extend all the way past the Powerhouse Museum, down to Darling Harbour, thereby effectively linking Surry Hills, Ultimo, Haymarket, Darling Harbour, and the city. That may happen in the future, but there are a hell of a lot of stakeholders, with stakes, holding them. 

Why does the UPN matter? Well, when Darling Harbour was built in the 1980s, all focus was on the harbour area as a destination, and little attention was given to pedestrian linkages, particularly on the western side. On the city side, it’s not much better, but at least there are pedestrian pathways, stairs, and the Pyrmont Bridge. On the Ultimo side of Darling Harbour - as Ultimo residents and daytime workers can attest - despite being very close to the city, pedestrian amenity on the back side of Darling Harbour is an absolute embarrassment. There are pathways that actually just stop dead, leaving the pedestrian with nothing to do but turn around, or launch themselves into 4 lanes of traffic. Walking between Darling Harbour and Ultimo, you can often feel like a little ant walking on the side of a big highway, crawling along a tiny little pathway, next to cars and trucks roaring past on Eastern Distributor feeder lanes. Admittedly, locals learn the best routes (which can include walking through parking lots and through buildings). Essentially, access between Darling Harbour and Ultimo is not at all straightforward, for those walking or cycling.

The Goods Line won’t solve all of these problems, but it’s a good start, and nobody seems to disagree with that. 

Our point, however, is that calling the Good’s Line “Sydney’s High Line” is deceptive.


New York City’s High Line is a pedestrian route that uses an old railway line, and uses it to great effect. It is, unquestionably, a marvellous piece of urban design. When we were there in April 2012 it was positively teeming with people (tourists and locals alike). It was so crowded you could only walk at a snail’s pace. 


New York’s High Line is a destination in and of itself, not a linkage point. And while it eventually gets you from A to B, it takes a circuitous route, and it is slow-going up there. So, our guess is that most locals in NYC do not use the High Line as a walking route (and they certainly don’t cycle up there).  

The Goods Line, on the other hand, is precisely intended as a linkage point, a mode of urban connectivity. It will probably attract people who just want to spend time there - but it must serve the existing community of locals, students, workers, who essentially want to move smoothly from one end to the other. If it does not do this, it will be immensely frustrating. So we are all for the children’s play areas, the communal tables, the activity areas and the like, but please, let this not be at the expense of the easy movement of people from one end to another. It needs to also be a functional space. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh and modernist. But if it just becomes an urban playground, no really improvement to amenity, in a functional sense, will take place. 

The Goods Line has the potential to act as both a hub of activity (a destination) and as a thoroughfare. It can be both if it is designed well, and with both functions in mind. If that ends up happening, the Goods Line will actually provide more amenity, and more added value, for locals and tourists alike. 

It is likely that while cyclists will be welcome on the Goods Line, the main cycling thoroughfare will remain the City of Sydney’s existing cyclepath network down Ultimo Road and Darling Drive. In other words, if you want to go fast on your bike, the Goods Line may not be the place to go. 

The disused rail tunnel at the south end of the Goods Line is not yet incorporated into any plan (it wasn’t part of the tender). This is a bit of a missed opportunity - right now the rail tunnel is empty, dark, and has sewage gas smell issues…. it really needs some attention. This post has some of Penultimo’s thoughts on what the tunnel could be used for.

Jun 21

Ultimo in 2011: Census data

The 2011 Census data is out, and that means we can finally discuss Ultimo without referring back to 2006 figures. 

Here are a few quick stats (and comparisons to the previous Census), to show how Ultimo has changed in the last 5 years. 


The population of Ultimo has grown by an estimated 1561 people since 2006. We imagine these figures are provisional because not everyone in Ultimo would have filled out a Census form. Apartment living makes these things a little tricky. 

Total Population 
Total population in 2011: 7111 (2787 of those were Australian citizens)
Total population in 2006: 5550 (2055 of those were Australian citizens)

Median age in 2011: 27 
Median age in 2006: 28 

Average number of motor vehicles per dwelling in 2011: 0.5
Average number of motor vehicles per dwelling in 2006: 0.5 

Number of households with 0 motor vehicles in 2011: 1388 (53.7%) 
Number of households with 0 motor vehicles in 2006: 987 (not sure %) 

Birth Country & Ancestry:
Born in Australia (2011 Census): 1602 (22% of total Ultimo population)
Born in Australia (2006 Census): 1183 (21.3% … )

Born in China (2011 Census): 1250 (17.6% … ) 
Born in China (2006 Census): 692 (12.5% … )

Both parents born overseas (2011 Census): 4421 (78.8%)
Both parents born overseas (2011 Census): 3111 (not sure %)

Dwelling Types
Separate house (2011 Census): 23 (0.9% of total Ultimo population)
Semi-detached / terrace (2011 Census): 363 (14.1% … ) 
Flat / Unit (2011 Census): 2183 (84.5% … )

Compare this to 2006 (we actually thought there would have been a higher increase than this):
Separate house (2006 Census): 0
Semi-detached / terrace (2006 Census): 358 (12.1%) 
Flat / Unit (2006 Census): 2595 (87.9%)

Rent & Mortgages
Median weekly rent (2011 Census): $460 
Median weekly rent (2006 Census): $335
Median monthly mortgage repayments (2011 Census): $2280
Median monthly loan repayments (2006 Census):$1904

Here’s a striking figure: 
In 2011 in Ultimo, 55.4% of people were attending an educational institution. Of these, 2.8% were in primary school, 3.1% in secondary school and 51.7% in a tertiary or technical institution. 

We don’t have the ABS percentages at hand to compare this to 2006, though it appears that the number of Ultimo residents who were engaged in some kind of education in 2006 was also high (3436 persons, which makes that around 61% of total population, roughly). 

Travel to work
The 2011 Travel to Work figures will be released in October. Bummer, that was one of the stats we were most interested in. 

Want to find out more? Download the NSW Postcode 2007 ABS Community Profile

Jun 20

Meet the Gardeners: Ultimo Community Garden’s Afternoon Tea

The Ultimo Community Garden is having a Winter Warmer afternoon tea event on 7 July 2012, 2pm at McKee St Reserve in Ultimo. View the Facebook event invite here.

Everyone is welcome, and there will be tea and cake, and a colouring competition (kids only, sorry folks - we would’ve been pretty keen on that one). As the poster says, there will be vintage farm machinery on display (watch out Powerhouse - you’ve got some serious competition) and even lucky door prizes, sans the door. 

This is also an opportunity to find out how to become involved with the Ultimo Community Garden, and find out what delights the garden has to offer, too. 

Jun 14

More apartments proposed for Wattle & Bulwara

Here are two new residential developments to watch out for in Ultimo. One is an application currently on exhibition, and another one is undergoing planning assessment, neither are approved, as yet. 


445-459 Wattle Street, Ultimo

Image from Google Maps of the site at the moment (we can’t walk down there at the moment, stupid leg.)

Student housing company URBANEST is proposing to demolish the 1 storey Motor-Body work building on in the Blackwattle lowlands of Ultimo, and redevelop the site into 5 residential buildings for student housing, with heights varying from 4 to 8 storeys. This site is opposite some TAFE buildings and the end of MaryAnn Street. It backs onto Blackwattle Lane. 

This development is directly adjacent to the Briscoe Building, an architecturally significant brick warehouse on Wattle Street (see below)

The $32mill project is designed to house 665 students in 430 rooms (oooo … that means shared rooms), and include things like a fitness centre, bicycle storage and external courtyards. It will not have a big parking garage.

Here are some architectural renderings of the Urbanest proposal: 

The Development Application is currently on exhibition, and this closes on the 29th of June. This area already features high-rise residences, and these look to be lower level - but across a fairly broad site. 


A less dramatic project, no longer on exhibition (currently under assessment with City of Sydney):

349-357 Bulwara Road, Ultimo

This application is to partially demolish the existing (very ugly) commercial building on Bulwara Road, and replace it with an 8-storey residential tower with 123 units and space for 35 cars. Overshadowing is not so much of an issue because this building already overshadows nearby terraces on the south side, and next door to it is Meriton’s monstrosity “Casa Mia”. 

Jun 12

5 places to watch in Ultimo (and surrounds)

Well, life in Redfern is going very well, but we feel a little guilty for not checking in with our Penultimo followers for such a long time.

It’s been great to see that the comments haven’t stopped, and the Tumblr reblogs continue too. Admittedly this can probably be explained by Spambots, and a few confused lost people who have stumbled onto the blog, only to rant at us from the comments field in a wacky, out-of-context diatribe. 

But to the meat of the matter. This area is changing fast, and we can scarcely keep up. We might need amend our list to, ahem…

5 places to watch in Ultimo (and surrounds)
So maybe we touch on a bit of Pyrmont and Haymarket… everything happens on the fringe…


1 - Of cliffs and relics:
The transformation of the Edwin Davey Flour Mill 

Now known as the Harbour Mill”, the old Edwin Davey Flour Mill is transforming into a $90 million mixed use development at the end of Jones Street (technically Pyrmont). The developer is Ceerose. Here’s an old post by Penultimo with a little more detail. Right now there’s some impressive graf on the outside of the building, visible from the freeway. This “boutique” heritage refurb won’t be finished until 2014. They probably couldn’t have changed the area more radically: in a few years it’ll transform from an area that frequented by Sydney’s homeless (and graf artists), to a 10-level luxury development. The facade of the mill will be retained.

Probably the best thing to come of all this is that Ceerose will be working with the City of Sydney to improve Pedestrian access between the Wentworth Park lightrail stop, and the flour mill area above. It used to be a no-go, a cliff, but opening up this access-way will greatly improve pedestrian amenity & connectedness in Ultimo.  

Images: Ceerose


2 - From markets to studentville to luxury city living:
"The Quay" on Ultimo Road & Quay Street. 

Another heritage facade will have a fancy lookin’ mixed-use development tower looming over it. Are we sensing a pattern here?

The Quay was the site of the old Poultry Market in Haymarket (well, it had a number of uses before then, see the archaeological report here). The delightful facade of the Poultry Market will be retained, but by the look of the renderings the towers above it will have little relationship to the facade. Still this is a part of Sydney that can cope with a bit of high-rise (and already has a fair bit). 

The Quay will consist of two towers, designed by WMK Architecture, Smart Design Studio and CHADA, 18 levels, including 2 levels of retail (presumably on the ground floors). It may have some kind of podium garden thing going on… 

Images: CBRE / The Quay


3 - Fast paced progress for Sydney’s Gehry:
The Dr Chau Chak Wing at UTS

Also on Ultimo Road, the UTS Business School will soon have a new building, and as everybody knows, it’s a Frank Gehry creation. Highly controversial, at least this building gets everyone talking about architecture in Ultimo, which is nice to see. Glass and sandstone-like light stone, depending on which side you’re looking at. 

The excavation should be complete rather soon (they say mid-2012), and the building is set to be ready for the business faculty by 2014. One of the most interesting things about this building is how it might spur change for the much-ignored surrounding areas - Omnibus Lane, and the old railway tracks (soon to be the extended Ultimo Pedestrian Network? More on that in a moment). 

Images: UTS


4 - Penultimo’s favourite horse to thrash:
The future of the Ultimo Pedestrian Network (UPN)

It’s really happening! We’re so excited. Maybe it’s not a very nice acronym, but the UPN has a LOT of potential for making this part of the city more connected, dynamic and pedestrian friendly. It also has a lot of potential for improving the viability of retail in the area, and improving the urban amenity of Ultimo for workers and residents alike. Connectivity! Intersections! Urban dynamism! So many buzz words, so much blather. It’s not just us: many people see the potential of the UPN, and are working hard to turn it into something workable … but there are a huge number of complications with a project like this, not the least of which is the large number of stakeholders with sometimes conflicting interests. (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority are the principal stakeholders.) 

Alright, for those of you still going, the UP-what? - What is it?
The Ultimo Pedestrian Network, right now, is only in Stage 1. Stage 1 was recently completed — it’s that pedestrian walkway down the back of the ABC and the UTS student residences. This zone connects the Devonshire Tunnel & Railway Square down to Ultimo Road. We’ve gotta say, it’s not the most exciting urban space to crop up recently, but one thing is does have going for it: benches. Lots of them. And a hell of a lot of foot traffic. 

But here’s the exciting bit. Stage 2 of the UPN is in motion — this it will make use of the old railway bridge over Ultimo Road, extend past the Dr Chau Chak Wing, and down to the back of the Powerhouse. It’ll be like the High Line in NYC! Only daggier. Probably. And cheaper. Australia doesn’t have the philanthropists to imagine something as ambitious as the High Line, but the UPN has the potential to be much more useful. 

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority have selected Aspect Studios to design the linear elevated pedestrian walkway & cycleway. Consultations are happening this month, and they anticipate completion by the end of 2013 (that sounds a bit ambitious, but we’ll see…). Aspect designed Darling Quarter, among other things. 

There are plenty of options for going further than this too (like… taking the UPN down towards Chinatown and Darling Harbour), but of course, these will take time and money… 

Perhaps Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority might like to run a competition to rename the zone? UPN is dreadful, though the SHFA have their own acronym-related problems. 

Images: 1) Jesse Adams Stein; 2) Aspect Studios


5 - Can’t see the forest for the trees:
The Powerhouse Museum forecourt

Things are going full steam ahead (so many cliches in this post!) with the revitalisation of the Powerhouse Museum and its forecourt. The ground foundations for the forecourt have been fixed up (and it’s much more open now - think steps not walls). But it looks like the Powerhouse Museum might be in a bit of a bind financially; they’ve really got the hat out, hoping for supporters to fund their ambitious Toland / Shigeru-Ban cardboard tree forecourt design. Go on, buy them a tree branch, it’s only $100.  

Image: Powerhouse Musem & Toland / Shigeru-Ban

Apr 02

Vale Lionel Bowen

Born in Ultimo, 1922. 

Mar 19


While Penultimo may not be “back” - we did promise an Ultimo-related post from time to time. So here’s an Aussie hiphop video, shot in Ultimo. PROVOCALZ - This Is How I’m Livin’. This is not an endorsement of Provocalz. Sure, he can rhyme, but seems to be suffering some kind of personality deficiency syndrome. Actually, the best thing about this song is reading the Youtube comments underneath. 

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