Park Place

The joy of returning safely back to Sydney after a weekend on the NSW Central Coast without having a run-in with a single rat-tailed local was tempered when, pulling into the Norton Plaza centre in Leichhardt to pick up a few supplies, I discovered a dozen prime parking spots blocked off:


It’s the new thing, apparently. Valet parking (by “Gieves”, no less) at $10 for the first hour, presumably just the thing for when one really can’t wait an extra second to get into Coles or the two-dollar shop. I asked guy operating the “service”, a hangdog middle-aged bloke in a rent-a-tux who sat soaking in a fug of sleazy failure of the sort one generally associates with Julia Gillard’s exes what the story was, but he only sort of grunted something about it being “every day”.

Truly a horrible idea. Now there is nothing wrong with the principle of “user pays”, or charging a premium for better service: The Pricks happily buy the exit-row seats on Singapore Airlines, for example, which is one of the best little deals in travel.

But this is entirely galling. We’re talking about a shopping centre in Leichhardt, not Woollahra. And as a rule, it is tough enough to find a place to park in Norton Plaza without some spiv locking up a big chunk of prime spots. (If someone else is doing the driving, why don’t they put the valet spots downstairs, down the back somewhere?) The Pricks easily pump a grand or more through the centre’s businesses in any given month and this is the thanks we get? Pay up or it’s that much harder to find a place to put the Prickmobile?

Indeed the entire business model seems flawed and designed to alienate customers right before Christmas (smart move, guys!). The centre’s site claims that “This convenient service aims to add value and assistance to you, our loyal shopper as well as an extra point of difference to your time at Norton Plaza [sic]”.  Which is a less-grammatical version of the typical spin we’re all used to seeing trotted out by utilities, government departments, and other agents of Satan when they try to sell the public on cuts to front-line services or new and increased fee schedules. One wonders how the centre’s tenants feel about this given that parking – or lack thereof – is so crucial to their trade. Is the centre hoping that once the entire rest of the lot is filled up, enough people will pay for premium spots? Or will they go elsewhere? Certainly the Pricks will now do more of their food shopping over at Broadway Central.

It will also be interesting to see how the Leichhardt locals, who cloak their right-wing Tory aspirationalism in a green-tinged egalitarianism, respond. If Norton Plaza’s managers run into trouble, they’ll need to re-brand this not as a convenience but as a push to “nudge” drivers out of their cars and onto bikes.

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4 Responses to Park Place

  1. Sean Carmody says:

    Couldn’t agree more! I made the mistake of dropping into the Plaza at prime time on Saturday. I drove around looking for a park for almost 20 minutes. Even though the new valet parking only had 3 or 4 patrons at the time, I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out the $10 for a valet spot: I am not prepared to endorse such an unwelcome development.

  2. JamesAFalk says:

    The Plaza don’t like to admit it, but their business is driven by their parking. In fact, most businesses on Norton St these days are driven by Plaza parking – not by Italian Forum parking or Forum shops, that’s for sure. And half of them come from Anti-car-Annandale and Biking-Balmain, whose anti-development residents have ensured there isn’t a decent shopping centre between the Rozelle Bridge, Broadway and Norton St.

    You’re on the money in terms of marketing though. The Plaza should call it a Car Reduction And Parking tax (yes, a CRAP tax) designed to redistribute income from the ambulation-challenged to those able to walk from downstairs.

    Actually, it’s more likely to be part of a differentiation from the plebeian Leichhardt MarketPlace and an attempt to position Plaza to attract the monied Green Mummies from closer to the city. You know, the ones that like the poor in concept but would never shop with them.

  3. Russell "Stringer" Bell says:

    Relax… there will be 500 or so free parking spaces in Rozelle soon (thank you Ian Wright). No one will need to give GPT a cent to park their SUV while they shop. Or feed Leichhardt Council’s meters, for that matter…

  4. JB says:

    Don’t waste your time and money in such a place. A short drive will find you and yours in my local area, Hurstville.
    Convenient free parking in Westfield, and an endless supply of restaurants.

    Around a couple of hundred places to eat at a guess, mostly Cantonese, but also Shanghainese, Taiwanese, Szechuan, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian.

    Not infested with trendies, prices are always reasonable, and quality varies from good to superb, your choice.

    Check it out during the day too, yum cha at Sunny’s in Cross St. or Mr Chao’s in Forest Rd.

    MR Chao’s is always packed, noisy, be prepared to wait, especially at weekends. No need to speak Cantonese, just point.

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