Meet the neighbours: the locals of Brunswick East
While we’ve all been spending extra time close to home, we’ve had the chance to take a good hard look at the suburb we live in.
Suddenly, what’s in our immediate vicinity matters more than ever (five kilometres, anyone?).
Ceramicist Lisa Frankland thinks she’s one of the lucky ones.
The Brunswick East resident describes her local neighbourhood as “a melting pot of a bunch of things that I really value in life”.
That includes the thriving local food scene and the area’s “amazing” bars, but even while the pandemic temporarily pauses some things, the area continues to shine in another area she holds dear: the warmth and kindness of fellow locals.
“I’ve always found Brunswick quite friendly,” she says, “but throughout this past 18 months, I feel like it’s even more important for people to acknowledge each other. If our neighbour’s in their front yard, just saying ‘hi’ as you walk past – those little things become so important.”
Frankland (owner of frank.land Ceramics) will soon move into an apartment building designed with those kinds of community connections in mind. Neighbourhood is a sustainable development on Little Miller Street by award-winning design firm breathe. Comprising four distinct, mid-rise buildings, the precinct will feature leafy communal spaces dotted throughout to support neighbourly interaction.
With environmental sustainability also a key priority – for example, the development is designed to be fossil fuel-free – Frankland says she “felt aligned with the ethos, like the commitment to sustainability, where they’re going for 100 per cent renewable energy, and their big focus on the garden spaces”.
Five hundred square metres of landscaped gardens by Melbourne design firm Openwork will surround the development. And the apartment building’s location overlooking Balfe Park will be a boon for Frankland, her five-year-old daughter, and their dog, Blackie.
“Parks just become even more important when you’ve got kids,” she says.
Brunswick East has some unexpectedly vast parklands for a suburb six kilometres from Melbourne’s city centre. Nearby gems like CERES – an environmental park and urban farm – and tree-lined Merri Creek are close to Frankland’s heart. The historic streets and lanes also hold many lesser-known green spaces.
“Friends of mine who also live in Brunswick didn’t even know about some of the smaller parks in the backstreets that are really beautiful,” Frankland says.
Those options will soon be augmented by the “massive internal courtyard garden” Frankland is looking forward to in her future home at Neighbourhood.
“I just think that makes such a difference, you know – if you can walk out of your house and walk through that … It’s those little things.”
Emilio Rogliano found the perfect home for his new cafe, Bellboy, in Brunswick East, just up the road from the Neighbourhood site.
Rogliano – who previously founded Brunswick institution Lux Foundry – says the spot is “a great little pocket” surrounded by a diverse mix of professionals, students and artists.
When chatting to regulars, he’s discovered many also come from the nearby enclaves of North Fitzroy, North Carlton, Clifton Hill, and Northcote – all mere kilometres away.
While takeaway-only restrictions have come and gone repeatedly since Bellboy opened last year, Rogliano says customers are always keen on the extensive grab-and-go bagel selection. And puppucinos – yes, dogs are most welcome.
“We know that dogs went through a boom last year,” says Rogliano, “but it’s amazing, the number of dog owners here.”
As someone who enjoys riding to work when time permits – “Awesome,” he says of the local off-road bike paths – Rogliano ensured the outdoor space at Bellboy had plenty of room for cyclists.
“People can come either with their bikes or with their dogs and not feel you’ve almost got to play a game of Twister,” he says. “You’ve got your own space. People feel pretty comfortable coming here.”
That’s what it’s all about for him – “a place to connect and relax when you can”.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Frankland, whose future home has that philosophy built into it, in a suburb she already knows she loves.
“It’s just a really nice place to live.”
Originally published as: Meet the neighbours: the locals of Brunswick East