The dead hand of gentrification

I’m disappointed to discover that two of our lesser-known foodie attractions in The World’s Most Liveable City have had much of their mojo smothered by the dead hand of gentrification.  This process of course goes on all around the world – Singapore’s super-slick Chinatown immediately comes to mind.

Since my last visit the Oasis Bakery, our favourite Middle Eastern providore in the SE suburbs of Melbourne, has morphed from family-run bakery and cafe into something more akin to supermarket-with-a-touch-of-ethnic alongside a slick cafeteria. I don’t begrudge the enterprising Makool family their success, but enhanced efficiency seems to have been achieved at the cost of less tangible qualities.

This morning’s excursion to the wilds of Dandenong proved even more disappointing. Yes, we loaded up with cheap fruit and veg, but the camera case stayed firmly clasped.  The Dandenong Market proved to be a large, modern steel shed affair reflecting very little of this ethnically diverse community.  Sure, customers and stallholders were anything but Anglo-Saxon, but neither the merchandise nor the setting reflected this diversity, nor began to approach the richness and colour of the Queen Victoria Market back in the city.

Out on the street things were even worse.  Afghan restaurants, Muslim apparel outfitters and Asian grocers still line each side of Lonsdale Street but a vast windswept expanse of asphalt and paving now separates the two.  Officialdom has laid waste to the original streetscape and is busily repeating the exercise all around the heart of Dandenong, imposing gentrification – middle-class suburban design – on what must have been a lively and spontaneous immigrant community.  The skies were dark and threatening, the footpaths almost empty; we drove off home, frustrated.

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