The Past, Present & Future of Paddington’s Olympia Theatre

One of Central Element’s latest developments is set to revive one of Paddington’s most iconic sites, and behind its stately Edwardian façade there is a rich history.
11/06/2020

1-11 Oxford Street in Paddington has been home to brewers, films, communities, dancing and soon – a world-class Sydney boutique hotel and precinct.

From brewery to West’s Olympia Theatre

The first written records of the site began with the opening of Marshall’s Paddington Brewery in 1860 – one of the early contenders in Sydney’s brewing scene. Soon after came a building boom that saw Paddington’s iconic terrace buildings spring up en masse, as well as the renaming of South Head Road to Oxford Street in 1875 to emulate the London high street. As public transport changed from horse-drawn buses to steam trams, Oxford Street began to carve a name for itself as a retail precinct.

Marshall’s brewery closed in 1906, and in 1911 West’s Olympia Theatre was built on the site to house Sydney’s first ‘talkies’.

Oxford Street and West’s Olympia Theatre, circa 1938.
Image from the State Library of New South Wales.
West’s Olympia, Darlinghurst, circa 1938. Image by Sam Hood from the State Library of New South Wales. Call number: Home and Away – 23270

The latest films were on show for almost 50 years here, providing regular entertainment as Paddington changed from working-class, to a multi-cultural neighbourhood home to European immigrants, to a gentrified suburb and home to one of the city’s most fashionable streets. As West’s Olympia Theatre became the Odeon and later closed in 1960, Oxford Street was seeing an influx of Bohemian students, writers and artists, including the likes of Margaret Olley. All of these factors helped to shape the suburb’s creative reputation over time.

A key presence for the community

The building at 1-11 Oxford Street narrowly escaped demolition in 1964 before being used as a community centre, apartments, shops and restaurant by the Greek Orthodox community. Part of the building had a second life as a cinema: first as Mandala Cinema from 1969 and later then as Academy Twin Cinema from 1974 onwards. In the 90s the site became beloved for its Grand Pacific Blue Room nightclub, but for the past decade the site has been largely unused. Meanwhile, Paddington has gained international appeal for its prestigious private art galleries and distinctive fashion boutiques.

Looking to the future – a new Sydney boutique hotel, retail and entertainment precinct

Now, 1-11 Oxford Street is set to begin another vibrant lifetime, with an exciting new precinct taking shape. A collaboration between Central Element, Boston Global and architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer will see the site transformed into a 101-room hotel, restaurant, retail and entertainment precinct, plus a medical facility in the new basement levels. The development’s association with nearby St Vincent’s Hospital has provided the perfect opportunity to create amenities for patients and families. The original exterior will be restored to its full potential, and three levels will be added to the existing height. A verdant internal garden will give life and colour to the open spaces, connecting the spaces of this mixed-use development.

You can stay tuned on the development page as we provide future updates on this Paddington hotel in Sydney’s creative heart, and read more about the development at The Hotel Conversation and The Urban Developer.

Exteriors of the planned development that will revitalise the existing Edwardian design.


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