At Fremantle council the word activation comes a very close second to the word sustainable, with Elected Members showing an almost indecent haste to change our city and make Fremantle the first city in the world to beat the Global Financial Crisis and turn the retail economy around.
It looks all good on the surface, with promises of huge hundreds of millions of dollars of development in the inner city, and grandiose, and too high, “heritage of the future” buildings, but is it all what it appears to be?
The promised activation of Kings Square is only going to be business-hours activation, as the majority of the planned new buildings will be street level retail and office space on the floors above, with no, or very little, residential. That means Kings Square will remain a ghost town after dark, but with modern new high buildings. There won’t be much incentive for traders to open businesses that trade after 7pm when no one lives at or near King Square, so those kind of businesses will open in the east of the CBD where residential development will happen at Queen Victoria and Beach streets.
The activation of Arthur Head, by making it into the Bathers Beach Art Precinct, is short of a disaster, with ailing artists not making a living that pays the rent, let alone an income. The studios and galleries are only sporadically open a few days a week and the place is a ghost town after dark that attracts homeless people and anti social behaviour. It was activated 24 hours a day prior to that with residential and port pilots occupation of the historic cottages, so the activation went backward and has not improved at all.
To activate the Arthur Head area Council is now keen on allowing the development of a microbrewery and live music venue at J Shed on Bathers Beach, ignoring that the area already has weekend summer activation with the incredibly successful Bathers Beach Sunset Food Markets. The market attracts far more people each Saturday than the 1500 patrons Sunset Events would be allowed to have at their 12 concerts a year. And it is a family friendly environment instead of one focused on the sale of alcohol.
The activation and increased connectivity of the Esplanade is done at the expense of losing green public open space and against the wishes of inner city residents, who pleaded for the skate park youth plaza to be built adjacent of the A Class Reserve, but that fell on deaf ears at Fremantle Council, as the calls against highrise in the CBD did.
My concern that Fremantle could end up with ‘white elephants’ of floors of empty office space and streetscapes with more vacant shops than we already have, were ignored, but this week renowned urban planner Linley Lutton warned that exactly what I feared might happen, because there is not enough demand for significant office space in Fremantle. It is unlikely, and unrealistic to believe, that without fully occupied offices retailers will open new shops.
Sirona Capital seems to be struggling to get major tenants for the Myer building development at Kings Square and had to delay it. We have not heard yet if the mid year start of the face-lift will actually happen, or if there is going to be more delay because the Department of Housing is not coming to the table.
It appears council has been behaving like a small child whose eyes are bigger than its tummy, and who puts more on its plate than it can eat. Planning in Fremantle is more a case of wishful thinking and hope, and believing a big dream is reality, and those who warn the Elected Members to wake up and deal with facts are dismissed as the anti-development and anti-change lobby who don’t want to see Fremantle grow.
In their childlike eagerness for something new, Council is ignoring the community it was elected to represent, and it is unnecessarily dividing that community. When we ask for restraint and wisdom we receive spin, smoke and mirrors, and hyperbole instead, and our wishes are ignored and our concerns shrugged off.
Fremantle Council sees the Freo community as its opposition, the other team they need to beat and get the better off, instead of seeing us as the people they should be closely working together with to get the best outcome for our city and future generations of residents. That is very disappointing and it makes dealing with the City of Fremantle so intensely frustrating.
Yet another Special Electors Meeting will be held this Monday at the Town Hall, where frustrated residents will air their concerns, but it will go like the ones before. Council, in it’s unwillingness to listen, will again ignore any motions that might be passed on the night, because we are only residents of this City and not equal to the Elected Members who look down on us from their high horses.
Which way do you go when you want to move on, create chance and activate your city, when nothing really is broken and nothing needs urgent fixing? That was one of the many-rhetorical- questions at the FICRA organised event Fremantle-Which Way? held at Notre Dame University.
Over 250 people attended the evening, among them Councillors Massie and Sullivan, Director of Planning Phil St. John, former Freo heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera, present Fremantle Society president Henty Farrar and former one Ian Alexander. Disappointing that the City Ward councillors were absent.
Former Councillor John Dowson started it off by saying this was FICRA’s positive contribution to a better Fremantle, and that it was important for the community to re-engage with the planning process.
Urban planner, architect and developer Linley Lutton was the guest speaker and he did an impressive presentation on Fremantle’s development future. When community representatives engage is what makes sustainable cities, according to Belgium expert Louis Albrecht, Lutton told the audience. The community takes ownership if it has some say in the process. It was also essential for council to understand the ramifications of their actions, and one had to ask what the urgency is all about.
Lutton said there were far more desirable location in the metro area for office development than Fremantle, e.g. West Perth, Subiaco, Stirling, Cockburn Central and Jolimont, and that the Myer and Queensgate plans were fanciful, because there was no need for all that office space in Fremantle, while it was competing with Victoria Quay. He said the Kings Square development would be wonderful if it became residential instead of office space. He believed the targets set by the City are unrealistic and too high, with a planned 275,000 of square metres being more than double the 105,000 needed outside the Perth CBD, according to an URBIS report.
Having just resigned from the Fremantle Design Advisory Committee, Lutton lamented the Point Street big box development and that the DAC could not get the developers to break it down in scale. “We wanted a well-moduled building. The street frontage was highly problematic from the DAC point of view.” “Cities succeed or fail at street level.”
There is a lack of viability when projects promise more than they realistically can deliver, and there is a lack of evidence of clients committed to quality outcome when it comes to large buildings.
Lutton expressed concern that Council would be manipulating its own regulations if it ignored the PSA 49 requirement of set backs to allow discretionary additional height and that the Queensgate vertical rise part at William Street, would be in contradiction with PSA 49 because it is not set back.
In more general terms Linley expressed that the role of local government is to represent the community, and that includes matters of land development and planning. This Fremantle local government is not even close to having a mandate to do what it likes, he warned. Fremantle is crying out for people to live in the inner city and should encourage mixed use of street level retail with residential units above it.
It was a very good evening and I wonder why no one at Council has been listening to the concerns of the community. I have questioned many times if so much office space is needed in Fremantle, and why there is no residential development at Kings Square. To hear an urban planning expert like Linley Lutton raise the same points, reaffirms to me that we are not asking the wrong questions, and that we are not anti development, but that we want our councillors to listen better and stop pretending they have all the knowledge and wisdom, and to stop treating us as if we are just a noisy, ignorant and negative minority group.
There has been considerable debate in Fremantle on how the Design Advisory Committee reports back to council. It specifically came up about the Queensgate proposal at King Square, and if, or if not, the DAC had indicated that exceptional design standards granted discretionary additional height for the building. There was a bit of a public outcry here on the blog about this, so it is good that it went back to DAC for clarification. Well it is all clear now and will go to the Planning Services Committee this Wednesday.
Here is what the DAC advises council: The design of Queensgate continues to evolve positively. As outlined above, there remain several public realm issues which, when resolved will allow the building to be regarded as being of sufficiently high quality to be granted the concessions being sought under the scheme provisions. Information has been provided about quality of materials and finishes and additional details should be the subject of a DA condition.
The design for the Queensgate site is distinctive while being responsive to the local setting. It facilitates edge activation and pedestrian permeability, allowing legible connections to other city facilities. The finishes and materials are proposed to be of a high quality, promising new benchmarks for Fremantle. The street facades are well considered in terms of their layering and animation.
I like the building design and the fact that is looks more like three buildings than just the one, and I wished the Point Street design had some of the flair and creativity Queensgate has. Sadly Point Street will be an architectural design disaster Fremantle people will have to endure for a very long time.
There will be a very interesting event, organised by FICRA, next Tuesday, February , at 7 pm at the Medical School of Notre Dame University, where highly-regarded urban planner, architect and developer Dr Linley Lutton will speak about Fremantle‘s development future; FREO’S FUTURE-WHICH WAY?
Lutton, who controversially resigned from the City of Fremantle‘s Design Advisory Committee, will discuss why people must re-engage with the planning process in Fremantle.
The man who started the Perth City Gatekeepers in protest against the Elizabeth Quay development, will also consider if the extend of development proposals for Fremantle are realistic.
And what is the way forward with Queensgate, Myer, Kings Square, Spicer, Point Street, and Victoria Quay?
There is no doubt Fremantle is on the cusp and that major development will happen, but how much is too much and how high is too high. Do we risk creating large buildings that will be vacant for years for lack of demand, are the targets set by the City of Fremantle unrealistic, how real is the chance for a large state government department to move into Freo, etc.
There are a lot of questions and there is a lot of cynicism about development in our City. We all want progress and we want our city to grow and move forward, but are we on the right track, or does Council need to reconsider and fine-tune where we are going?
I am really looking forward to this evening and hope it will be a very constructive one that will benefit Fremantle.
It was an interesting evening at the City of Fremantle Strategic Planning and Services Committee on Wednesday with many speakers from the public having their say on the J Shed proposal. It started with a ‘deputation’ by Sunset Events director David Chitty who stressed the company did not intend to put a beer barn on the beach, but instead were planning to create a relaxed cultural and social environment where artists will be engaged and the local creative industries are embraced, with a vision to establish a beer brand and not sell spirits. David said his organisation likes to live in harmony with the community and that they would be happy to reduce the numbers for the bar from the original 850 patrons to 500 to start with.
There were several speakers for FICRA with Dick Baynham saying 120 patrons and a small bar was the preferred option and that a large venue would be disrespectful to the significant historic place.
Maryrose Baker said the Lance Holt School has very strong connections with Arthur Head and is the place where the kids learn about Aboriginal history and that they help beautify and look after the area as Friends of Bathers Beach. She urged Help Us Save Bathers Beach, as the proposal for a large pub would “completely lose what is special of this”
Lawyer Richard Bartlett said there were legal issues with the A Class Reserve and that the legally controversial elements were not being considered by Council. He stressed a High Court decision had ruled that an A Class reserve is for recreation of the public, and that prior Ministerial Approval needs to be given before a lease can be given to Sunset Events.
Anna George was worried Council takes in good faith that everything promised will happen, and asked if ratepayers money could be used to set up the area. There are better ways of doing this and we are all in favour of activating the area, Anna said.
Richard Meahan was worried that while so much care had been taken to get the Kings Square development right with an archirectural competition, etc. Arthur Head had been done on the run, while the area is at least as important as Kings Square. The development of the artists precinct should be at the heart of any proposal. Is this the best Fremantle can do, he asked.
John Dowson talked about the size of the proposal and that the mystique of Arthur Head made it a special place and that any development there should have a distinct local flavour.
After that the Elected Members “workshopped” the proposal with Chairman Andrew Sullivan saying that is was a very complex issue and he had not yet made a decision in his mind.
Councillor David Hume said he was now more comfortable with the lesser number of patrons proposal but that 1500 people for the ticketed live music events was still a concern. He lamented he had watched for ten years that nothing happened at the most southern studio of J Shed and that a 120 patron small bar would not get Fremantle a major attractor.
Hume claimed the limestone cliff wall would take care of any noise issues, but that the public don’t trust developers and that after Planning Scheme Amendment 49 Council has to build that faith with the community again.
The discrepancy between council only allowing 500 patrons, but the proponents still applying for a liquor license for 850 people came up. The City won’t have the resources to count the number of patrons every weekend, so how will it enforce the lower numbers was the question I asked and Councillor Rachel Pemberton also wanted to know. That Liquor Licensing might do it did not give anyone in the public gallery much confidence that it actually will happen.
The use of the A Class Reserve will remain a contentious issue and the amendment to only allow Sunset Events to lease a maximum of 50% of the open space will not solve that. Questions remain about the stage being set up outside the leased area, and if that stage and fences will remain throughout summer, as it is unlikely the proponents will want to erect it every second week or so.
What has not been mentioned at all by our carbon-neutral and environmentally aware council, is what effect climate change might have on the area and if J Shed will survive rising sea levels. Could the Sunset Events pub become the new Aquarius in 15-20 years from now?
Can something be done about the sound in the Chambers please. It is often very difficult to hear the Elected Members in the public gallery, so the sound needs to be turned up, or better microphones installed.
In light of recent discussions on this blog about new building development in Fremantle, the Design Advisory Committee, Planning Scheme Amendment 49, and Green Star rating, I want to put some facts out I received from a government source:
The City of Fremantle has a policy that specifies with a minimum 4 Star Green Star provision, but they also effectively say in the policy ‘or equivalent’, which means that alternative designs can be considered or negotiated with the developer. All policies are not ‘mandatory’ requirements, it only provides guidance and advocates for a certain outcome that a local government is trying to achieve. It should also be noted that Green Star is a comprehensive, national, voluntary environmental rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of buildings and communities. It is therefore difficult for any local government to mandate a requirement that is only voluntary on the national scene. Until the Green Star building requirements are translated into the National Construction Code, a local government can only advocate for its use in new developments, like the City of Fremantle is doing through its policy.
Fremantle isn’t the only local government in WA with this advocacy of the sustainable building design or Green star concepts – a quick look around found similar policies at Joondalup, Vincent, Melville and Wanneroo.
Yeah, let’s make a few more enemies! ; >) Those of you too lazy or not fit enough to participate in a real sport like chess, curling, underwater hockey, or dressage, should be signing up for the ANNUAL GOLF DAY of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. It is on March 21 from 1 pm at the Royal Fremantle Golf Club.
It is a mere $ 150.00 per person and that should not shock any of you Ferrari, Porsche or Rolls Royce drivers, because no matter how much we complain in Freo, we are really doing pretty well and are flush with money.
Come and join the fun. There are 18 holes, the competition is 4 Ball Ambrose (he must be a special man), there will be refreshments all day, prizes and a post game BBQ dinner and the bar will be at you service.
All you need to do is RSVP here: email@example.com