An article in today’s West Australian shows that it is very difficult to change people’s habits and lifestyle, and that will be one of the major challenges for our governments when it comes to climate change and getting people to live more environmentally aware.
The newspaper reports that in the last six months 12,000 blocks of residential land were sold in the outer suburbs but only 1,200 of blocks were sold in the inner city suburbs. According to the West that was mainly because of affordability. A couple said they bought a 462 sqm block at Banksia Grove for only $ 242,000 and will be building a 4 bedroom house on it. Compare that with having to pay nearly $ 500,000 dollars for a one bedroom apartment in the Fremantle CBD and one can see why high density living is still hard to sell in Western Australia. Of course the urban sprawl is unsustainable in the long run, and that means the great Australian dream of owning one’s own house on a big block of land needs to change.
In Fremantle, where the balmy climate allows us to live outside nearly nine months a year, less than 3 percent of the population uses a bicycle, but in a cold and wet country like the Netherlands 27 percent of trips are done on a bike. In Holland kids go to school on their bike instead of being dropped off in the car by their parents, and large bicycle parking stations are available to commuters and travelers at most train stations.
It needs a considerable mind-set change for Australians to let go off past and present habits of over using cars and of wanting to live in houses instead of apartments.
Higher density living does not have to mean ugly highrise concrete boxes. Developers, councils and State Government need to be more creative and clever and adapt a new style of medium high attractive apartment buildings to our climate, with large-size balconies, roof terraces and courtyards to accommodate the outdoor lifestyle we embrace.
There has been an interesting discussion going on on Freo’s View about development in Fremantle, with Mayor Brad Pettitt engaging, but also architect Murray Slavin and former COF Manager Economic Affairs and Marketing Andrew Eastick.
I expressed my concerns after Wednesday’s full Council meeting that the Mayor was too eager to compromise on the proposed Atwell Arcade development just to get some momentum going in the inner city. While even staunch development advocate Councillor Bill Massie said the proposal was unacceptable, Brad Pettitt, who has just been appointed to the board of the State’s Heritage Council, was quite happy to get minor adjustments made and let the decision rest with the CEO. However Councillor Andrew Sullivan said significant changes were required before the development should be passed. The Mayor did at the end vote with the rest to defer the application back to the Design Advisory Committee and a full Council decision.
In comments to this blog the Mayor wrote that the often advocated approach to saying no and/or less has put Fremantle in the economic situation it is in and that the Point Street Hilton Hotel development will be much better than what is there now.
Let me make these points, that there is nothing wrong with demanding the best and that accepting mediocre buildings will harm Fremantle in the long run. The argument that anything is better than the status quo is saying a shed is better than a ruin, so as long as there is progress it is good. That to me is the wrong attitude for a local council to have. As North Fremantle architect Murray Slavin wrote, if we expect mediocrity we will get less than mediocre.
I understand the Mayor is in a bit of panic mode. The delay of the Kings Square development is a real worry for Fremantle, so to get any new buildings up fast is being seen as positive, but I warn against that because that will give power to developers who will realise this council will do just about anything to get Fremantle moving, so they will try to get away with higher, uglier and cheaper buildings. Fremantle deserves, and should demand, much better than that!
My personal belief is that this Council is on the right track. Economic development is essential for our city, as is having more people living in the CBD. It is imperative that retail gets a boost with more variety shops, big-name players, franchises, etc. But we need to remain realistic. We can build as much office space as possible but who is going to move to Fremantle. BHP and Woodside are unlikely to come here, and the large law firms like to be near the courts, mining companies are downsizing and there are hundreds of thousands of square metres of vacant office space in Perth and West Pert, all up for grabs at substantially reduced rent, so what is the special attraction to move into Fremantle?
What Freo should not ignore is trying to get more attractions for tourists. 120,000 visit the Visitor Centre each year. Many ask what else there is to do after the museums, Round House and Fishing Boat Harbour, and the answer is not much else really but a trip to Rottnest, the Arts Centre and the beaches.
This is not an attempt at ‘Brad bashing’. I actually like our Mayor and don’t believe he is the big bad wolf who is out to destroy our city, but I feel he is so desperate to see Fremantle grow that he sometimes loses perspective on how to achieve that better. Accepting bad because it is better than what is there at the moment, is not a professional way of governance. Accepting buildings that are visually unattractive and have no aesthetic appeal should be a big nono for Fremantle, a unique city with great character, lauded by visitors for its outstanding heritage buildings. Five star green rating does not compensate for ugliness.
Let’s not panic, Rome was not built in a day and we do need to take the time to get it right. We owe that to future generations. And let’s hope that a large government department or multinational will sign a lease for the former Myer building soon, so that the essential Kings Square development can get started asap.
It is interesting to observe that rationale disappears and promises are broken when elected members are desperately trying to prove that their ideas are right and policy and good strategic planning are replaced by mantra and an almost religious belief in development and high density at any cost.
The promised heritage of the future is replaced by boring mediocrity, because developers put pressure on local and state governments to accept the banal or they’ll walk away and go somewhere else. Promise the Fremantle Mayor a national retailer and 300 office staff in the High Street Mall, and his resolve and promise that he would only support outstanding buildings crumbles and he is all too willing to compromise on designs that are lacking in quality, after all, he has to prove that his ‘vision’ for Fremantle is right.
It does not help either that the State Advisory Tribunal and Design Advisory Panel are behaving like giants in Gulliver’s Travels, who wander around the Perth metropolitan area and randomly step on suburbs and destroy them; Cottesloe, Subiaco, Vincent, Leederville, Fremantle crumble under Colin’s giants’ indiscriminate feet and all that in the name of progress.
Dreamworld is no longer only a fun park on the Goldcoast but is now also the way Western Australia plans its future. Elected Members dream of lightrail and ignore the reality of traffic issues that require immediate attention. They want to spend millions on bike infrastructure ignoring the reality of a very fast ageing population where soon over 50 percent of the population will be over 55 years of age, so a very large group that is unlikely to embrace bike policies and change from car to bicycle, basically because older people don’t feel safe to share the roads with inconsiderate W.A. motorists.
The Freo Mayor dismisses my concerns, commenting on this blog that one can walk and chew at the same time. I believe there is far too much chewing(dreaming) going on in our city and not enough walking(dealing with reality). Advertising the great progress of Fremantle and telling us how many millions worth of development has been approved, is not dealing with the reality that for example Sirona Capital can’t find major tenants for Kings Square and that project appears to be more and more dependent on State Government moving the Housing Department here. With financial ratings for the State falling left right and centre, it is unlikely the Treasurer will be keen on departments relocating at considerable costs, so that leaves Freo’s major development and economic revitalisation project in limbo. There are only four months left in 2014 and still no signs that the promised development of the former Myer building will start this year.
I long for the revitalisation of Fremantle, I would love to see outstanding new buildings in our city, I am keen to see the invigoration of retail, I am looking forward to thousands of new CBD residents and office workers, and hundreds of hotel guests staying here overnight, but like an under-performing football team Freo needs to get the basics rights, it needs to focus on the small things and do them well, because at the moment Premier Barnett’s pipeline idea to pump water from the Kimberley to Perth seems more realistic than a great rebirth of our inner city.
There is nothing wrong with having big plans, but they need to be built on the solid foundations of reality, great architecture, and thorough and strategic planning, and that is where Fremantle and the Western Australian State Government are lacking.
My report on today’s Fremantle Council meeting has to start with to mention that the woman who died in the car crash at Bibra Lake yesterday was a COF employee. She worked at the ground floor reception desk, so no doubt I know her and have spoken to her. It should remind us all that no matter how often we talk about changing our city and progress, we should never forget it is all about people and that it only takes a split second for those we love and respect to be no longer with us. May she rest in peace.
The main item on the agenda for me was the proposed development of Atwell Arcade in the High Street Mall, and it was interesting to observe how different individuals look at these issues.
The first public speaker owns the property to the west of it and, no doubt with dollar signs in his eyes about the possibility of seeing the value of his property go up, told Council this development would create opportunity, that Atwell Arcade had never worked and that his family loved the idea of putting a vibrant retailer in that location.
The architect for the development also came up that this was more about Fremantle finally getting the economic revitalisation it badly needed, and less about building an inappropriate building that lacks respect for the heritage surroundings. Oh yeah and if Council did not approve it fast the tenants who had already committed would go somewhere else and the development would not happen. After all they are giving Freo 300 office staff and a national retailer, so why make the changes requested by the Design Advisory Committee. If floor space has to be reduced it won’t be viable, he warned.
Of course John Downson for FICRA spoke in the same vein as the Fremantle Society had done at a previous meeting that the plans are shocking and ignore the townscape character of the area.
Over to the Elected Members. I was personally disappointed that Mayor Brad Pettitt said that time is of the essence for the office component and that Council wants revitalisation and new buildings in the CBD. The DAC is getting pretty close but we are not there yet, but the developers had said that tenants who had committed to move in would be lost if there was more delay. Sounds more like a threat to me, but the Mayor was happy to accept that as a reason to move forward fast, instead of getting it right. “I don’t want to lose this opportunity. This is a really important one with 300 office staff revitalising the heart of the city”
Breath of fresh air then that Councillors Strachan, Massie and Pemberton stood up to say they could not support it without the required changes and that leaving it to the discretion of the CEO to sign off on was not the way to go and that it should be deferred to the DAC.
Councillor Bill Massie, who is often the voice of common sense on Council, and who is very pro-development, said the proposal was risky because it is in the heart of heritage, and the design was not compatible with the area. Hallelujah!
Councillor Andrew Sullivan made the strongest points about the developers being in a rush to get the building approved. It was not about Council giving in and fast forwarding the process, but about the developers accepting all the recommendations of the DAC and make all the significant changes required, so that a fast decision could be made.
Sullivan also pointed out that even after the, to be demolished, arcade would be reconstructed it would diminish its cultural significance because it was no longer the original.
It is a good outcome that Council deferred the matter back to the DAC and that a special Council meeting will be held after the next DAC meeting to accommodate the developers, as long as they are willing to make the important design changes required by the DAC.
Councillor Massie then asked whatever happened with the 3D equipment the City had bought for a lot of money a few years ago and why that was not used for major developments, but the Director did not even know if that equipment was still at COF. The Fremantle Society have asked for 3D plans for major developments in the past, but for some reason council staff appear unwilling to use it and that needs to change.
Fremantle Council should never ever let developers threaten them with walking away unless they get what they want. Councillors were elected to make the right decisions for the community, not to make fast and inappropriate ones to appease developers who could not care less about destroying Fremantle’s unique character.
I wanted to share the following information that I copied from the City of Fremantle QUARTERLY REPORT:
Fremantle continues to attract significant investment from developers and has recently passed through the $1b mark for developments in the pipeline. This pipeline includes plans which are underway, approved, submitted, or in the construction phase.
Significant Development Applications (DA’s)
|11 Cliff Street||4 storey offices||$8m|
|2/398 South Street||27 Short Stay Dwellings, showroom & bar/restaurant||$5m|
|43 Mews Road Additions||42 serviced apartments||$10m|
|8 Pakenham Street Hotel||73 short stay tourist apartments||$15m|
|20 Knutsford||59 dwellings (2-3 storey)||$18m|
|16 – 18 Kwong||10 dwellings (5 stories)||$3m|
|50 Pakenham||4 storey mixed use||$5m|
|52 Adelaide Street||151 Hotel Rooms||$18m|
|MYER building||6 storey office and retail + basement||$35m|
|Fort Knox Redevelopment||5 storey mixed use||$60m|
|81 Queen Victoria Street||54 residential apartments||$11m|
|Point Street||173 hotel rooms and 77 apartments, restaurant, shop and basement parking||$70m|
|Queensgate building (10-14 William St)||7 Storey mixed use (retail and office)||$21.5m|
|Spicer site (14 Henderson St)||5 storey mixed use (office and retail)||$21.5m|
|11 Queen Victoria Street||6 storey mixed use||$12m|
|Bannister Street Hotel||92 hotel room and restaurant/bar||$7m|
|Bannister Street Apartments||4 storey mixed use||$5m|
|9 McCabe||100 (3-6 storey) dwellings||$70m|
A new tourism website was launched in May 2014 by the City owned Fremantle Visitor Centre. Visitfremantle.com.au is a no fee booking website for accommodation and tour product that specialises in hotels, B& B’s and self catered apartments for the corporate and leisure markets.
The website sits alongside the fremantlestory.com.au website launched in January 2014 as part of the Fremantle Strategic Marketing Plan and rebrand Fremantle. Be part of the story. Fremantlestory.com.au articulates an aspirational Fremantle through five leisure activity categories of arts & culture, eat & drink, see & do, events & festivals and shopping.
The City purchased and took over the management centre in 2011 to better link its visitor servicing and place marketing functions. In addition to these projects the City has been focusing on improving opportunities for local businesses to promote their product to the 120,000 visitors that walk through the centre’s doors each year.
Contact email@example.com for more information on these projects.
Perceptions are dangerous because they kill reputations, and perceptions become reality in the minds of people, so the City of Fremantle needs to start a media blitz on the many negative perceptions about Fremantle. Let me be the Devil’s advocate and name just the ones that spring to mind. I am sure I will have forgotten some:
* There are parking problems in Fremantle and parking is expensive.
* Fremantle is a dump, dirty and not properly cared for.
* There is a lot of violence and crime in Fremantle.
* Art support is just tokenism and the Bathers Beach Art Precinct should get more publicity generated by COF.
* Kulcha, Deckchair, Harbour Theatre, Fly by Night, FTI, should have received more COF support to stay alive and in town.
* There is too much emphasis and money spent on bicycle infrastructure and not enough on making Freo more pedestrian friendly.
* Freo Council is naïve and ignores reality and sets the wrong priorities.
* Council allows mediocre new buildings in their desperation for progress.
* COF is not active enough to retain retailers, hence too many vacant shops.
* BID does what the Economic and Marketing Department should be doing.
* Too much support for Sunset Events is one-sided favouritism for mates.
* Way finding in Fremantle is a real pain and signage is inadequate.
* Planning in Freo is ad hoc and not long-term strategic.
* Dreaming about lightrail stops finding real traffic solutions.
* Fremantle does not embrace tourism enough and offers little to keep visitors in town longer.
* Fremantle is re-active rather than pro-active.
* COF can’t get the basics right, e.g. emptying rubbish bins, looking after parks, heritage buildings, etc.
I am sure this list is not complete, but I surely hope it will trigger some real action, not just comments to this blog.
And when will we see the report on the Visioning 2029 project that finished last year? Mayor Brad Pettitt said he had seen it, so why is it not been made public, or is there some creative editing going on to make COF look better?
Being a volunteer tour guide at the Fremantle Round House is a real pleasure to do. They are very positive and relaxing days where one meets people from all over Australia and the world.
Yesterday we had people from Canada, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Korea, England, Ireland, Malaysia, USA, Taiwan, Japan, Ukraine, Netherlands, China, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne, Broome, etc.
It is so good to hear all the compliments on how well Fremantle has preserved its heritage and how beautiful the west end buildings are, while at the same time getting the complaints that cities like Perth have neglected to do so.
Never underestimate the importance of history and our connection to it. It makes us grounded and gives us a sense of belonging.
If you want to volunteer a day at the Round House, contact the Fremantle Volunteer heritage Guides!
The development of Bathers Beach House, the former Fishermen’s Co-op building is progressing fast and it is looking good. Work is now under way for the roof of the large upstairs alfresco deck that will no doubt become one of the most popular locations in Fremantle to watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
The tavern, bar, cafe, function centre is getting a long-overdue facelift and is now in the hands of the very successful operators of Cicerello’s and Char Char Bull.
The Sweetlips fish&chips shop is also upgrading its interior, so the area will become a real asset and tourist destination, which will hopefully be complimented by the Kelp Bar at Kidogo Arthouse early next year.
The Bathers Beach House is due to open in late October.