The community with everything

For Michele Levine, CBD living has brought far more sense of community than she ever encountered in the suburbs.

The Roy Morgan Research CEO explained her trepidation about five years ago when she committed to her four-storey, free-standing Victorian building in Flinders Lane.

“I thought it would either be terrific or very strange and lonely,” she said.
In hindsight, she should not have worried.  The locals already knew who she was thanks to her renovation tradesmen feeding the local gossip mill and she was greeted as a long-lost friend from day one.

The noise, on the other hand, was a shock.  “I really didn’t know how I was going to cope ­– particularly with the noise from the garbage bin trucks,” she said.

“I remember keeping a diary recording the trucks.  I was sleep-deprived and seriously questioning what I had done.”

Installation of double windows (not just double-glazing!) and a “just get on with it” attitude has ensured that those early days are a distant memory.

“You’ve got to be tough to live in the city – and I am,” she said. “You can’t be too precious about things.”

“If you’re not ready to enjoy or engage with it, you could find it quite irritating.”

Michele is now a huge advocate for CBD living.

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love it.  Because you are already here, you don’t have to go anywhere to be part of it.”

She said living in the city was like being in a constant party – no more so than visiting Degraves St.

“And the best part of it is that, when I’ve had enough, I can come home, shut the door and enjoy my oasis.”

She said living in the CBD was a bit like living in a bubble.  “I can no longer empathise with people who have to deal with traffic problems,” she said. “Living so close to everything is a really simple way of living.”

Michele is lucky enough to have her daughter’s young family living in their own apartment within the building.

She also plays host to a semi-constant stream of friends and relatives who drop by and stay over.

Living next door to work and having her social circle circulating through her house puts her at the centre of things.

Her building is partly home and partly event space.  Now called Tonic House, she rents out the basement and rooftop for parties, weddings, anything.

The building is almost completely renovated but maintains strong links with the past.  Shared at different times by both the Communist Party and ASIO, it has an interesting history, to say the least.

“I don’t have to go out for a party,” she said.  “It often comes to me.”

While she has kept a car, it has become a communal vehicle and is used by her extended family, friends and work colleagues.

“I feel really safe living in the city,” she said.  “And I’ve never experienced the level of community that I enjoy here.”

“Out in the suburbs, you would only see people coming and going from work. Here, you run into people you know in the neighbourhood 24/7.”

“I didn’t imagine it would be like this,” she said.  “I don’t think I’d feel as good as this living somewhere else.”

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