When I think of visiting Stones Corner back in its hey-day, I remember meeting my mum there when I was a uni student.
We’d jostle the crowds and other shoppers as we wandered around the huge array of clothing outlet stores and after a few hours, we’d grab a bite to eat before saying our goodbyes.
Then Brisbane DFO came to town and – apart from frequenting the sushi train because I worked nearby – we stopped going.
The “high street” at Stones Corner Village.
And it appears so did a lot of other people.
Since then, the Stones Corner high street has struggled to get the same foot traffic. Vacant shops and empty businesses have been on constant rotation with everything from cafes, to jewellery shops, to accountancy firms. In losing its place as an outlet shopping destination, it kind of lost its identity altogether.
Not surprisingly, its housing market followed the same pattern, where, despite its inner city location less than five kilometres from the CBD, it remained relatively subdued.
The Stones Corner high street hasn’t had the same retail buzz since DFO came to Brisbane in the 1990s.
Back in the day, Stones Corner was probably more well known than the suburb of which it was a part.
In fact, it was only in November last year that it was finally gazetted as its own suburb (again), when it officially became more than just a precinct of Greenslopes.
It’s important to note that Stones Corner has a lot going for it; close to the CBD, it’s within a stones throw of the M1, the Buranda train station and the local Stones Corner busway station is part of the amazing Eastern Busway network.
Local character housing: 23 Bardsley Avenue, Greenslopes, will go to auction on Saturday, March 3. It’s within walking distance of the Stones Corner high street.
Local character housing: 23 Bardsley Avenue, Greenslopes, will go to auction on Saturday, March 3. It’s within walking distance of the Stones Corner high street. Photo: Harcourts Property Centre
It’s only a few minutes drive (or bike ride) from one of Queensland’s biggest hospitals, the PA.
So why, years after DFO stole its retail thunder, has Stones Corner not quite recovered?
Real Estate Institute of Queensland chairman Rob Honeycombe said people had certainly lost a reason to visit the once vibrant high street and that Stones Corner was still trying to find its new identity; he said the retail strip’s disparate ownership hadn’t helped the issue.
On the up: Kevin Seymour recently purchased a Stones Corner office investment and development opportunity for $27.6 million.
“We’ve got such fragmented ownership of those retail properties,” he said.
“What happens, of course, is that the rent’s dirt cheap, so people start up their businesses for the first time, who aren’t necessarily good operators — and then they fail.”
Times had become even tougher more recently with new mixed-used developments (such as Coorparoo Square) having opened in neighbouring Coorparoo and Woolloongabba.
That said, one of Stones Corner’s best assets was its local housing market, Mr Honeycombe said, which had recently shown signs of improvement.
He said the Stones Corner housing market was actually one of its best opportunities given the large block sizes, which could be ripe for unit development in the years ahead.
And he said construction of a new transport-oriented student accommodation complex nearby could be a “game-changer” for the suburb.
“It’s going to put 1,600 residents in there by the end of this year. If they roll on, regardless of the market, there’s certainly the potential to bring another 2,000 or 3,000 people into the area over the next couple of years.”
Harcourts Homeside principal Pattie Steele has been working in the suburb for two years and has noticed positive change over that time.
Popular cafe, Lady Marmalade, has recently expanded, she said, while new hipster bar, The Bent Elbow, is offering one of a number of alternatives to the Stones Corner Hotel, which opened way back in 1888.
Popular cafe and American-style eatery Shady Palms is consistently a drawcard for young people wanting locally brewed beer and live music to visit the high street on weekends and evenings, while the Stones Corner Hotel is an historic and welcoming venue.
The suburb also has a progressive council committee, Ms Steele said, which had resulted in new events such as the Stones Corner Market and the Stones Corner Festival.
“When I look around here I think it’s like West End was probably 10 years ago and you can sense it’s going to change. I’ve always said the same about Woolloongabba as well,” she said.
“It’s grungy, but there’s something about it that’s entertaining. Coming down here it’s like, ‘Oh my god. All this activity’. There is a real hub and a heartbeat to it.”
RE/MAX City’s Geoff Esdale has been a commercial agent in the suburb for 10 years and admits that it’s had its struggles over that period.
He said it had moved from a fashion destination to a food spot in recent times and was beginning to become “trendy” again.
Commercial owners had also started dipping into their pockets over the past two years to upgrade their properties, he said.
“Now it’s getting a bit of traction. A few things are happening – people are moving in, obviously – but the owners are spending a few pennies upgrading their shop fronts,” he said.
“It was looking a bit dowdy – the old roller doors. Most of them are gone now, so I think that’s what’s helped too. People are looking at it saying, ‘well, this is somewhere I’d like to be’.”
Mr Esdale said new developments in neighbouring suburbs may impact Stones Corner, but not everyone was chasing “bright and shiny”.
Major developers were also buying commercial spaces in the suburb, he said, but were unlikely to start construction in the short to medium-term.
When that happened, he said, the suburb would start coming into its own again.
Five things you didn’t know about Stones Corner
1) It became its own suburb (again) in November 2017.
2) It’s named after James Stone, who lived in the suburb in 1870s.
3) Stone tried to open a hotel but was turned down so started selling his father-in-law’s ginger beer instead.
4) The Stones Corner Hotel opened in 1888.
5) The fifth annual Stones Corner Festival is on Sunday May 6.
NICOLA MCDOUGALL FEB 21, 2018. “A stones throw away: The inner city Brisbane suburb making a comeback”. Retrieved from