Chinatown and CBD South

The village is a hub of commercial activity, with the second largest amount of office floor space in all 10 villages within the City of Sydney. In addition to the office market, the village also has a significant tourism market, which supports a range of space uses including entertainment, retail, and food and drink. 

The presence of Chinatown eateries is particularly noticeable, with food and drink businesses accounting for the largest portion of businesses in the village. 

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Employing businesses by type and size

Table 2 displays data from the City of Sydney's Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 (FES) showing the number of employing businesses within Chinatown and CBD South, categorised by their city-based industry sector and size (number of employees).

Businesses within the village employed an average of 20.25 workers across all city-based industry sectors in 2012, increasing from 19.23 workers in 2007. Despite the increase in average number of workers, the average business floor space decreased from 806 sqm to 741 sqm.

As shown in Table 2, the largest industry sectors by number of businesses within this village are food and drink, and retail and personal services, which make up 20.1% and 19.6% of businesses respectively. These sectors are supported by the large resident, worker and tourist markets. They are dominated by very small and small businesses, which together account for 90% of food and drink businesses and 98% of retail and personal services businesses.

Despite the large number of businesses within these industry sectors, the finance and financial services and professional and business services are the highest employing industry sectors.

The professional and business services sector also makes up a significant proportion of businesses within the village, at 16.9%. Businesses within this industry sector are typically larger in nature and consequently consist of a high total number of employees.

Over the 5 year period between 2007 and 2012, the number of businesses in the village increased by 17.2%. Of all 19 industry sectors, there was an absolute increase in the number of business establishments in 13 industries. Across the village, the largest sectoral increase occurred in professional and business services, with an additional 122 business establishments. This was shortly followed by food and drink, which saw an increase of 111 businesses.

Table 2 – Number of Employing Businesses by Size, 2012

Sector Very Small (1-4) Small (5-19) Medium (20-199) Large (200+) Total Total (%)
Community 6 4 3 1 14 0.5%
Creative Industries 31 32 13 3 79 2.7%
Finance & Financial Services 86 95 21 5 207 7.1%
Food & Drink 235 289 57 1 582 20.1%
Government 3 10 27 10 50 1.7%
Health 95 26 8 0 129 4.5%
Higher Education & Research 67 58 24 4 153 5.3%
ICT 42 37 10 4 93 3.2%
Life Science (Bio-Tech) 22 13 2 0 37 1.3%
Manufacturing 10 2 0 0 12 0.4%
Motor Vehicle 0 2 0 0 2 0.1%
Natural Resource-Based Industries 2 0 0 0 2 0.1%
Professional & Business Services 247 184 55 4 490 16.9%
Property Development & Operation 29 50 9 0 88 3.0%
Retail & Personal Services 372 188 7 2 569 19.6%
Social Capital 54 24 12 2 92 3.2%
Tourist, Cultural & Leisure 89 105 44 2 240 8.3%
Transport & Logistics 32 18 4 4 58 2.0%
Utilities 0 0 0 1 1 0.0%
Total 1,422 1,137 296 43 2,898 100.0%

Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Food and drink

Chinatown and CBD South has a variety of dining options representing a number of different cultures, creating a buzzing atmosphere throughout the village. There is a strong presence of restaurants around the Darling Harbour area, targeting the tourism market as well as capturing the surrounding office workers on their lunch breaks and after work. This is contrasted by the bustling yum cha, dumpling and banquet houses of Chinatown along Dixon, Pitt and Sussex streets.

As shown in Table 3, restaurant/eating floor space increased by nearly 19,000 sqm over the 5 year period between 2007 and 2012. The total supply of 120,493 sqm in 2012 was the second-highest provision of all 10 villages after CBD and Harbour, and represented 17% of the total City of Sydney local area supply. This highlights the strength of the restaurant industry in the village.

Furthermore, employment in the restaurant space use division grew significantly to nearly 5,500 employees, an increase of 41%.

Table 3 – Restaurant/Eating Floor Space and Employees

2007 2012
Internal Floor Space (sqm) 101,773 120,493
% of Total Floor Area 2.7% 3.0%
Employees 3,848 5,428
% of Total Employment 8.0% 9.2%
Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Table 4 – Restaurant/Eating Capacity Measures

2007 2012 % Change 2007-2012
Restaurant Seating 16,097 20,986 30.4%
Café/ Coffee Lounge Seating 2,691 3,485 29.5%
Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Figure 5 shows the distribution of restaurant/eating floor space across the village. It shows that there is a significant amount of restaurant floor space around Darling Harbour of varying densities, in an area supported by the tourism market as well as the surrounding office worker market. There are also high provisions of restaurant floor space around the Darling Quarter development and also within Chinatown.

Figure 5 – Restaurant Floor Space

Figure 5 – Restaurant Floorspace   


The village’s retail businesses are also supported by the resident, tourist and office worker markets. The retail mix in the village includes the import and exotic retailers associated with the Chinatown precinct, as well as Paddy’s Markets, one of the most significant permanent market halls within Sydney.

Table 5 shows that, in the period between 2007 and 2012, the amount of shop/showroom floor space actually decreased slightly, by around 6,200 sqm or 6%. The 2012 figure of 94,081 sqm still represented the fourth-highest provision of all 10 villages, and 10% of the total City of Sydney local area supply.

Despite the minor decrease in floor space, total employment associated with this space use increased by over 1,200 workers, or 31%, and increased the share of the village’s total employment to 9.0% in 2012.

Table 5 – Shop/Showroom Floor Space and Employees

2007 2012
Internal Floor space (sqm) 100,269 94,081
% of Total Floor Area 2.6% 2.4%
Employees 4,064 5,305
% of Total Employment 8.5% 9.0%

Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

Figure 6 shows the distribution of shop/showroom floor space by block across the village. This shows that the largest amount of retail floor space is located at Paddy’s Markets and Market City, in the south-western portion of the village. There are also significant amounts of retail floor space around Darling Harbour, which predominantly caters to the tourist market. Chinatown also has noteworthy areas of retail floor space with imported and exotic foodstuffs and homewares retailers.

Figure 6 – Shop/Showroom Floor Space

Figure 6 – Shop/Showroom Floorspace   


Entertainment and leisure businesses play a significant role in the village, particularly in the Darling Harbour area and its surrounds, which is a major hub of tourism activity. The area also attracts large numbers of locals, including office workers and inner city residents, due to the provision of entertainment options combined with the harbour views.

As shown in Table 6, the supply of entertainment/leisure floor space in Chinatown and CBD South remained essentially unchanged 2007 and 2012. In 2012, the amount of entertainment/leisure floor space in the village represented the second-highest provision of all 10 villages, with 16% of the total City of Sydney local area supply.

Despite no change in the amount of entertainment/leisure space in the village, the amount of workers associated with this land use more than doubled between 2007 and 2012. However the 2012 total of 583 workers was still small compared to more intensive uses like office, food and drink and retail.

Table 6 – Entertainment/Leisure Floor Space and Employees

2007 2012
Internal Floor Space (sqm) 139,881 139,259
% of Total Floor Area 3.7% 3.5%
Employees 277 583
% of Total Employment 0.6% 1.0%

Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

As evident in Figure 7, the focus of entertainment floor space within the village is mainly around the Darling Harbour and Darling Quarter precincts. Notable entertainment facilities within the village include IMAX theatre, Entertainment Centre, Australian National Maritime Museum and Event Cinemas on George Street.

Figure 7 – Entertainment/Leisure Floor Space

Figure 7 – Entertainment/Leisure Floorspace


The village occupies the southern fringe of the city centre, with a central location and high accessibility. Therefore the area has an abundance of office space, mainly in high-rise buildings.

Table 7 summarises the amount of office floor space and associated employees present in the village in 2007 and 2012. Due to the number of recent office building developments, office floor space in the village increased by over 140,000 sqm, or 16%, between 2007 and 2012. The village has the second highest amount of office floor area across all 10 villages within the City of Sydney, and is home to 12% of the total City of Sydney local area supply. The office floor space within the village is predominantly occupied by those in financial, professional and business services.

The number of employees in office space uses also increased significantly, rising from nearly 39,000 employees in 2007 to over 46,000 employees by 2012, an increase of 20%. Despite this increase, the proportion of the office employment in the village’s total employment decreased slightly to 78.3% in 2012, which still represents the highest employment across all divisions by a substantial margin.

Table 7 – Office Floor Space and Employment

2007 2012
Internal Floor Space (sqm) 866,879 1,007,387
% of Total Floor Area 22.8% 25.3%
Employees 38,742 46,316
% of Total Employment 80.8% 78.3%

Source: Floor Space and Employment Survey, 2012 – City of Sydney

As shown in Figure 8, large amounts of office floor space are seen across the entire Chinatown and CBD South village.

Figure 8 – Office Floor Space

Figure 8 – Office Floorspace

What does this mean for my business?

This section can assist both existing businesses and those considering locating in the village in identifying the presence of competing and/or complementary businesses.

For some businesses, the presence of complementary businesses can be an important factor in deciding location due to the benefits of ‘agglomeration economies’. For instance, restaurants and cafes tend to cluster together due to the advantages of being located in a food and drink precinct which attracts a large number of visitors – myriad restaurants in the Chinatown district, and Darling Harbour area, are perfect examples of this principle.

Conversely, other types of business may prefer to locate far away from competitive business. Examples here would include supermarkets and cinemas, businesses that benefit from a ‘captive’ market. Analysis of current space use patterns within the village may be useful in identifying potential opportunities.


This information has been compiled from various sources. The publisher and contributors accept no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage arising from the use, error or omissions therein. While all care is taken to ensure a high degree of accuracy, users are invited to notify the City of Sydney of any discrepancies. No part of this information, including maps or data, may be reproduced without written permission.

Last updated: Tuesday, 16 June 2015