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?
There is a very interesting article by Ken Acott in the West Australian today, comparing the different attitudes toward traffic management in Perth and Vancouver, with the Canadian city years ago making a deliberate decision to prioritise away from vehicle traffic and building freeways, while the W.A. Government has added hundreds of kilometres of roads to accommodate motorists.
I believe there are important messages here for the City of Fremantle and the way we plan our city. While there is already some effort of making Fremantle more cyclist-friendly, I don’t believe we are consistent enough and still have a piecemeal planning approach that is neither futuristic nor holistic enough. Old-school planning and governance cannot cope with modern ways of planning, so that is where drastic change is required.
Vancouver planned “genuine green zones” and tried to make suburbia more compact, while they prioritised shared streets for pedestrians and cyclists, and to a lesser extend vehicles. They also changed traditional commercial and retail zones into residential, something that Fremantle should have considered when planning Kings Square, instead of wanting out major city square to only house offices and retail, instead of the perfect mix of upper floor residential as well.
Fremantle needs to become more people-centric, not just bike-centric and that means making genuine changes like closing the Cappuccino Strip for cars and busses. It is disappointing that 30 Strip traders can tell Freo Council they don’t want that and that then is the end of it, while far more Fremantle people see real benefits in closing South Terrace and making it a genuine meeting place. It could even have a weekend market, a bi-monthly long dinner or lunch event, shaded seating, extending the alfresco areas of the cafes, etc.
Even with all the Kings Square community consultation there was no real strategic traffic planning for the CBD and that is what is needed. Where does Fremantle want to be in twenty years from now? Do we want the traffic flow from Adelaide Street to go past Kings Square, through the High Street mall and into the West End, or do we want circle routes that bypass the inner city, as they do in many European cities, and make the CBD more people friendly and attractive than it is now.
Former Vancouver City Planner Brent Toderian will be visiting Perth in October and I suggest the City of Fremantle should make a good effort trying to get him to a public forum or workshop, so we can listen to the inspiration Vancouver has become for many cities around the world.
How do local governments really know what younger people want? We rarely see young people participating in community workshops and the few who do turn up, often only do because they are students of urban planning, sustainability, etc.
How can Fremantle Council engage younger people? What needs to be changed so that local government becomes interesting to them, because, after all, we are designing our future cities for them and, to a lesser extend, for the 55+ year-olds who do come to community consultation meetings.
Take the city of Kansas in the USA for example where the demand for inner city apartment living by 25-40 year olds became apparent, a new entertainment precinct was created, a stunning new performing art centre, a streetcar/lightrail, and a $ 90 million 30-storey 500,000-square-feet-tower was refurbished to make it into a ‘vertical city’ to house residential, offices, retail, a university satellite, childcare, and a public roof garden.
Inner city living in Kansas City has increased 50 percent since 2000.
So what will the City of Fremantle be doing to attract younger people to participate in the process of creating the future of our city? Bike paths along boring buildings won’t do and neither will the pretty dull and uninspiring nightlife of Freo. What do we need to provide as a community to have more happy young people living here? How can we revitalise the city so young people want to live, work and play here?
I want to hear the opinions of young people. I want to listen to them, so I know what they want, and we can assist them to enable that.
The sale of 7 Quarry Street by the City of Fremantle to Fremantle Park Investments(FPI) is in jeopardy due to the National Rental Affordability Scheme(NRAS) Credits no longer being available to FPI.
The City believes it cannot enter an agreement with FPI unless affordable housing is part of the development,while the FPI through its solicitors argues the sale of the property should go ahead because the withdrawal of the NRAS credits is not their fault.
The City wants FPI to investigate if they can come up with a similar proposal of a percentage of affordable housing in collaboration with other organisations, so one can only hope this won’t become a costly legal exercise.
FPI is the company of developer Bruce Moriarty who pulled out of the proposed development of the former Energy Museum site, to do the Quarry Street development instead. I hear though there are other parties interested in developing the museum site.
The concept plan for the Fremantle Park Club amalgamation of the Fremantle Lawn Tennis, Fremantle Bowling, and Fremantle Workers clubs was on the agenda at Wednesday’s City of Fremantle Strategic Planning and Services Committee, which was tightly and professionally chaired by Councillor Dave Coggin.
The “clearly defined project” could become a model for other clubs in the area and is considered major infrastructure in the inner city, with the possibility of also building a City carpark on the Parry Street site.
A merger of the clubs would be very good for the east of the inner city and would create much-needed recreational and sports facilities for new residents, like those of Heirloom by Match, moving into the area. It would sit well close to the Leisure Centre and only a two-minute walk from the future Hilton Hotel, so hotel guests could also benefit from the new clubhouse, that should include a gym.
I believe this would be an exciting development for the rather dull area along Ellen and Parry streets that could invigorate the clubs and that part of the city.