The Sydney suburb of Alexandria, located five kilometres south of the Sydney central business district, has been quietly undergoing a major transformation. Originally known for its heavy industry, Alexandria now buzzes with visitors and residents who flock to chic cafes for brunch or visit the many outlet stores to purchase gifts or great items for the home.

The suburb had a very different character back in the 1940s, when it was the largest industrial district in the country. Back then, Alexandria was known as the “Birmingham of Australia,” and boasted 550 factories that manufactured products ranging from bricks to aeroplanes.  

Many long-time residents have much to say about Alexandria’s dramatic transformation over the years. Nicola Jephcott, who’s lived in Alexandria for 18 years in the same house on Henderson Road, notes that the suburb was less populated when she first moved in. “There were a lot more factories and we’ve since seen the warehouses sold off and turned into apartments,” she said.

The transformation has created a stronger sense of community. “It’s so relaxed [now]. People living here have shared values and are very friendly,” Jephcott said. “When we first moved here we rarely saw any kids but now there are many young families – there’s a real mix of ages.”

While it’s changing, developers are making a concerted effort to incorporate Alexandria’s history into the transformation. The popular Grounds of Alexandria is one shining example. This former pie factory has been repurposed into a homestyle food and specialty coffee shop in the surrounds of an organic garden.  

“The developers are trying to create more of a village feel for Alexandria, especially around Fountain Street,” Jephcott said. “It now has great shops such as the organic wholefoods canteen Bread & Circus and Salt Meats Cheese.”

Many residents also value Alexandria’s proximity to other parts of Sydney. “I live close to Erskineville and can hop on a train there to get down south or into the city,” she said. “We’re close to the M5 or it’s easy to hop in a car to get over the Harbour Bridge.”

Buyers are also drawn to the suburb because of the unique and well-appointed houses. Large Victorian-style family residences are tucked away off the main street. New apartment developments are also in the works, attracting investors, young professionals, and childless couples to the area.