The life and death of purple sneakers, Sydney / by Tom Oliver Payne

The Abercrombie Hotel, sitting on the site of the former Australian Hotel, has been a strong part of Sydney’s pub and live music scene for decades. Every Friday night, Purple Sneakers was for a long time, one of Sydney’s most popular clubs.

Cheap booze, live music and an outdoor beer garden kept my friends and I going for years.

While Sneakers has moved on, The Abercrombie vibe remains pretty much the same. But with the Central Park development encroaching from behind, I've begun to wonder, for just how long.

 Image courtesy Music Feeds.

Image courtesy Music Feeds.

 Image courtesy Micromaniac

Image courtesy Micromaniac

Central Park is one of the biggest developments Sydney has seen for years, and it'll bring some great benefits to the city as a whole, including open space, independent retail, much needed inner city housing, modern architecture and a much more aesthetically pleasing Broadway streetscape. But as with any new big development, there is a sense of fear that once it is built, the past is gone forever.

Restricted under heritage laws the 1937 hotel is set to remain where it is. It will however, be completely surrounded by apartments - both around and above. It wasn't until I saw this development in the flesh that I really began to think about some of the changes that this mammoth new construction will bring to the area, and more specifically, to the pub itself.

 Image courtesy Central Park.

Image courtesy Central Park.

Will people still want to drink there when it’s surrounded by multi-million dollar apartments? Will the new residents complain about late night noise and impose a curfew? Will The Abercrombie still have grotty toilets, sticky floors and the smell of stale booze engrained in its walls?

It’s hard to imagine this place five years down the track. With The Abercrombie buried beneath the floorboards of wealthy financiers, Purple Sneakers will be all but a distant memory.

Our city is evolving right in front of our eyes. Hundreds of years of history can be altered or destroyed in a number of days. While change is good for a city, it's also important to remember that there's nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia.

As Central Park begins to engulf The Abercrombie, we're in the process of watching history unfold. For better or for worse - Broadway will never look or feel the same.