Nance said another downside to Sydney’s spaces is that they are often not busy outside of work hours. For example, while Parramatta Square was a hub of activity during the week, Nance said there was an “ongoing battle” for patronage on weekends.
“A lot of people will spend their evening in pubs and clubs because there’s nothing else available,” he said, adding that investment in arts and culture, including live music, was vital to provide additional opportunities for people across Sydney to offer to enjoy an evening and have access to third spaces that are of interest to them.
Lisa Havilah, CEO of the Powerhouse Museum and former director of Carriageworks and the Campbelltown Arts Centre, agreed that integrating arts and culture into community spaces was something that could improve Sydney. However, she said suburban councils, particularly in western Sydney, were often at the forefront of this, investing in street art and festivals to bring locals into the community centre.
“When you walk down the Parramatta River you will experience art and culture every day,” she said.
Paul Nicolaou, managing director of Business Sydney, dismissed claims that Melbourne had more third places than Sydney.
“It’s more that there are so many third places in Sydney that we took it for granted and didn’t think about giving them a category,” he said, counting the coastal footpath from Bondi to Coogee in the east as well as the The pub streets of Millers Point (now extended by the nearby swimming spot at Marrinawi Cove harbor) and the bushwalks and picnic areas of Cumberland State Forest to the northwest of the city are among the places on his list.
“Certainly a lot more than Melbourne,” he added.
What are Sydney’s third places?
Visit the weekend markets at Carriageworks, Glebe, Marrickville, Kirribilli and several other locations around the city, where families, friends and solo shoppers alike stroll through the stalls, coffee in hand, before grabbing a bite to eat.
The ones everyone has heard of are close to the city – think Bondi to Coogee in the east or Bay Run in the inner west. But Sydney also has hiking trails in places like Cumberland State Forest, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and around the Cooks River and Lake Parramatta.
Hyde Park, the Domain and the Botanic Gardens are the central business district’s focal points, although each new twist on Darling Harbor’s open spaces continues to be popular with families (the playground equipment at Tumbalong Park attracts hundreds of children every Saturday). In the city’s second CBD, the 85 hectares of Parramatta Park take on this role.
Newly constructed plazas such as Parramatta Square and Darling Park feature wide, pedestrian-only streets lined with busy dining establishments. Also on the list are Chatswood’s Victoria Avenue, the Rhodes foreshore and indoor-outdoor shopping centers such as Rouse Hill Town Center and Macarthur Square.
The beach strip
That’s obvious, but from Palm Beach to the Royal National Park, Sydney’s beaches and waterfront cafes, pubs and fish-and-chip shops are a third destination for locals and day-trippers from the city’s west.
While it may stretch the definition a little, for many Sydneysiders their local – cafe before lunch, pub after – is probably their third place, be it a 1000-person venue in the suburbs or the place down the street that bears your name knows and your coffee order when you walk in the door.