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Fate of ‘Bondi Ranch’ to be Sealed by Bulldozers

By Joel Bevilacqua on March 28, 2019 in News

Another community hub gone, by Nick May.

For five years, 5/43 Hall Street, Bondi was a squalid drug den littered with hoarded junk. Those who lived or worked in the area at the time would remember this period well.

Over five years, the tenant at the time – a former sports ticket dealer – turned the property into a dump that was frequently used for parties. He would threaten neighbours who strayed too close to his kingdom and police were often required to visit the property, which was at the back of a unit complex.

In February 2016, after years of avoiding eviction, the problematic tenant was finally forced to decamp. It took five men two weeks to clear out the property and cost over $50,000.

While the clean-up was an improvement, the property was still an eyesore. Occupants on the beach side of the neighbouring complex looked down upon a gutted cottage and a barren yard of dirt.

Then Bondi local Nick May moved in. Mr May cleaned the place up, turning it into an urban oasis that became known as the Bondi Ranch. The transformation has made for some spectacular ‘before and after’ shots that can be viewed on the Bondi Ranch Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bondiranch).

The property is not something one might expect to exist just metres from the busy Hall Street. Secluded by two apartment complexes and only accessible via a narrow side passage, the Ranch is reminiscent of the secret garden described in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s book of the same name. The effort Mr May has gone to to rejuvenate the once forlorn property also mirrors that of the book’s protagonist, Mary.

The hard dirt ground is now coated with verdant grass and the scourge of hoarded junk that once covered it has been replaced by over 180 cacti. Decorations adorn the fences and an impressive tepee stands next to the now somewhat bohemian cottage.

“When I moved in it was like a junkie house, like an ice den,” Mr May told The Beast.

“I turned it into a cactus paradise.”

Recently 43 Hall Street and the neighbouring 45 Hall Street, two blocks side by side, sold to developers for $20.6 million. Mr May is being evicted and the properties are to be demolished and replaced with a five-storey residential building with integrated basement car parking. The façade of 43 Hall Street is heritage listed and this will be preserved in a glass box and used as a retail space.

Mr May has been left devastated by his eviction and the Ranch’s impending destruction.

“It is sort of like the last oasis of Bondi,” Mr May said. “You don’t get big yards like this anymore.

“It’s just a beautiful place to come and hang out and get away from the hustle and bustle of Hall Street and the beach.

“So many people love this place and have had the most amazing time here. A lot of people come here and chill in summer and hang out in the hammocks.”

Nick Smith, who has lived next door to the Ranch for over two years, told The Beast he will be sad to see it go.

“I’ve always said that’s a little hidden gem in Bondi; you can’t find anything like that in the heart of Bondi Beach,” Mr Smith said.

“Nick used to have chickens. I’d catch him doing his thing and he’d go ‘Egg?’ And I’d go ‘Yep!’ and one would come flying up to my balcony.”

Mr May said he knew it was only a matter of time before he became another victim of ‘progress’.

“I knew it was going to happen. All these people who have lived in these epic places around the east have all had to leave, and this is probably one of the last ones that will be here.”