Locals will be the losers

By Rhonda Dredge

Hip architectural values may help preserve key city buildings but they do not sit easily with the sale of unusual vegetables or home-cooked curries.

After 43 years in the one place, pioneers of the Indian cooking scene are moving.

Curry Corner is situated in Total House, an innovative car park building on the corner of Russell and Little Bourke.

The building gained heritage listing three years ago when new owners applied for redevelopment. Local architects campaigned on the grounds that the building was the first Brutalist high-rise in the city.

“We feel quite happy. Now they’re not going to knock down the building,” said Jaya Sharman, from Curry Corner. 

The new buyers are reported to have paid $52 million for the eight-storey car park topped by a four-storey office box and have raised rents by up to 30 per cent.

Michael and Jaya Sharman are not fighting. They are happy to move to new, larger premises in Victoria St.

In the meantime, hip backpack manufacturer Crumpler has taken up a prime 10th floor office with a view out over the north of the city and the availability of parking beneath.

Retail is more site-sensitive than office space and the Sharmans have used their position to build up a thriving business.

“The first three years were a struggle,” Michael said. “There were only 14 Indian families in Victoria then.” 

The couple persevered. “The SEC, Gas and Fuel and Myers put on cooking classes in the ‘80s and their customers came here.”

Total House is a solid building. There has never been a fire, outage or flood during the Sharmans’ tenancy. Four solid pillars support the corners of the building and there are no ostentatious foyers, just a small lift in a black-tiled vestibule.

Brutalist architecture has become cool as the 1960s is revisited, leading to a new appreciation of functional buildings that are bold and perhaps arrogant in the assertion of their rights.

A raw concrete wall faces the centre of the city rather disdainfully and the building is known in the industry simply by the initials TH.

Heritage controls can be used to protect the built history of the CBD but not those who inhabit the structures.

Jaya Sharman grows and sells rare vegetables from the store including fenugreek shoots, luki, bitter melon, okra and curry leaves, all of which have medicinal qualities.

“We’ve been cooking the same recipes for 43 years,” she said. 

The good news is that the Sharmans are not moving far, just to 292 Victoria St, opposite the Vic Market.

The losers will be the locals, including the street people who drop by for a free samosa.

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