Freo's View

AND ANOTHER FUTURE PROJECT FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on September 17, 2014

From the City of Fremantle website today: The Committee for Perth announced today (Wednesday 17 September 2014) at the Fremantle Leaders Luncheon that it is undertaking the landmark Future Freo project that will use evidenced based research to closely examine greater Fremantle.
The year–long project will produce a report that will detail Fremantle as it is today as well as identify opportunities and challenges to ensure that the region is an economically sustainable and vibrant place to live, work, play and invest for current and future generations.

I wonder though where Fremantle City is going with all its surveys and strategic planning because nothing appears to be integrated. We are still waiting for the release by consultants James Best of the very lengthy Visioning 2031 project and the very many workshops. In the meantime the City has formed a Special Projects Committee that will start from scratch without access to the Visioning 2031 report and so will the Committee for Perth.

Surely a better approach would be to read the findings of previous projects and use them as a base to move forward from.

Roel Loopers

CHALLENGING LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM

Posted in fremantle, western australia by freoview on September 17, 2014

There is a good opinion piece in the West Australian today about the local government reform process and the fact that so many councils do not want it to go ahead, or want it but with different boundaries. The question is if the WA State Government will be brave enough to push through the controversial forced amalgamations, which would constitute another broken election promise for the Barnett government. It could well become a huge election platform at the next election with the likelihood that many communities would be very angry with the Liberal Party for implementing boundary changes they don’t want.

Especially in the Liberal stronghold western suburbs this could become a real issue and while that might not personally affect Colin Barnett, who is unlikely to continue, it would make it much harder for his predecessor and his party to win another term in government.

I see great benefits for a Fremantle merger with East Fremantle and strategic parts of Melville and Cockburn, but to combine seven or nine western suburbs would be a far more challenging process, especially since most of them are against it. But even further east Bayswater is not happy to go with the City of Swan, or whatever.

The whole process of getting more submissions to more proposed changes to council boundaries is starting to look more like a shambles, that the National Party does not want to be part of.

Local Government reform will fail anyway because State Government is not brave enough to also want to implement it in the country where amalgamation probably would be very effective for the smaller councils.

Can we anticipate that the Barnett government will keep delaying the implementation of the reform in fear of an election backlash? If so, what would that mean for the individual councils who really can’t engage in long-term strategic planning unless the time line for amalgamations is firm and definite. Investors and developers would also want to know where they invest their money, so an indefinite delay is unacceptable.

Let’s see what Local Government Minister Tony Simpson will announce in a few weeks from now.

Roel Loopers

CAN’TNING COUNCIL SACKED

Posted in fremantle by freoview on September 16, 2014

It is interesting to hear that Local Government Minister Tony Simpson has dismissed Canning Council for the second time in 13 years for failing to provide good government.

A group of Canning locals, spearheaded by Canning Accountability blogger Diana Ryan, has been pushing for better representation and good governance for a long time, so no doubt they will be celebrating today.

Three new commissioners will look after Canning until the next local government elections mid next year.

It was interesting in that context to read the letters to the editor of the West Australian yesterday, and the outrage about the State Government’s Design Advisory Panel taking away the decision-making of local councils when it comes to planning approval of new buildings. We have been worried here in Fremantle about DAP decisions, but people from Alfred Cove, Subiaco, Leederville, Winthrop, Cottesloe, etc. are also not impressed.

While it is good the Minister sacks incompetent councils, he should let all others just let get on with the job of good governance and looking after local communities.

Roel Loopers

MEDIOCRITY LOVED LIKE A LONG-LOST CHILD

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle by freoview on September 11, 2014

atwell a

As was to be expected Fremantle Council last night approved the application for a four-storey building on the Atwell Arcade site between the High Street Mall and Cantonment Street, after the City’s Design Advisory Committee was satisfied that the developers would make the changes they required. Only Councillor Bill Massie voted against it.

I am happy the most important heritage parts will be preserved and the facades enhanced and restored to their former beauty. The walk-through permeability of the arcade has also been secured and that for me was an important aspect for consideration.

Sadly Fremantle will not be getting an outstanding modern building that will become and iconic feature in our inner city, but a rather bland and boring one, thanks to the highly-paid DAC doing their job only partly.

There is no reason to try to hide a modern building, that is clearly visible from street level, through blandness, so for heaven’s sake make it something outstanding and beautiful, through paneling, the colour and materials used, or whatever ways ingenious architects around the world come up with to make a concrete box look great, and they do it all over the planet, but oh no, not in heave ho Freo!

I was astounded to hear a committee member of the DAC say last night they had considered the economic reality of the proposal. That is not their job! They are being paid to get Fremantle the best looking buildings that are respectful to the streetscape, character and heritage of our city, not if it is going to cost developers more money to build something attractive.

And please Mister Silverleaf developer don’t address council twice telling us how much of a favour you are doing Fremantle by building something in our city, and Mister Commonwealth Bank manager, please cut the crap saying staff will only work in modern buildings and that’s why it is hard to get staff in Freo. Are you telling us staff applies for a job with you and at the end of the interview they ask you to give them a tour of the building to see if it is good enough for them? Bullshit is the only word that applies here. But you happen to lease your bank building in Queen Street from Silverleaf, so no conflict of interest at all hey. Maybe the kind developer also has a lot of money with your bank?

While I am happy that there will be inner city development, and that the bleating owner of the property to the west of it finally has started painting his neglected building, the outcome is far from perfect and again a compromise. With a Council in panic mode that nothing might happen in Fremantle, we can expect they will keep embracing mediocrity like a long-lost child.

Roel Loopers

WHY BLANDNESS INSTEAD OF VISUAL DELIGHT?

Posted in architecture, fremantle by freoview on September 10, 2014

Maybe the full moon is to blame, but there is a sadness and bewilderment in me that we in Fremantle still have to keep fighting to preserve heritage and character in our city. It should be a given for developers and our Councillors that the preservation of Fremantle’s uniqueness is not something that will be compromised, no matter how good a deal we are being promised by developers.

Let me make it absolutely clear that I am not against change, progress and new development. In fact I would really love to see many new outstanding modern buildings in the CBD, which enhance and compliment the beauty of our city and heritage buildings, and I am definitely not talking about mock-heritage, but stand-alone iconic modern architecture.

But why, whenever new development is proposed, does the 44 year-old Fremantle Society still have to step in, address Council, write submissions, talk to Elected Members and try to preserve what should not even be debatable. Heritage preservation should not be an issue, it should be the norm that has no exceptions, a local policy set in concrete that won’t budge for big money and even bigger promises.

It should not be up to local community groups like the Society, Fremantle Inner City Residents Association, Ratepayers and Residents Association, and precinct groups, to constantly having to remind Council that we are not willing to compromise our past and heritage, and that is not because we are against change, but simply because we believe change can happen in those areas where it does not compromise heritage.

The owners of Atwell Arcade for example also own the dreadful Target and Gloria Jeans buildings just east of Kings Square, so why do they see the need to compromise the Atwell Arcade’s heritage when they could have what they want by building a new modern building on the Target site, that would be the neighbour of the planned new hotel just down the road in Adelaide Street.

I am a bit tired of constantly having to speak negatively about new development, because the proposals are inappropriate for Fremantle. I would so much like to stand up in Council Chambers and tell everyone how much I love a new amazingly designed new building for our city, but sadly we only seem to be getting mediocrity instead of greatness, and blandness instead of visual delight.

Roel Loopers

KINGS SQUARE NEEDS RESIDENTIAL ACTIVITY

Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on September 9, 2014

While the concept of the revitalisation of Fremantle’s Kings Square was good and the initial plans exciting, the follow-up is flawed. In the beginning we heard the promising news of Queensgate maybe being developed into a hotel, or at least the Spicers site would become tourist accommodation, but as the plans evolved the excitement ebbed away, as all the City of Fremantle and developers could come up with was ground level retail and above that office space. That might be nine to five revitalisation, but does nothing to make the heart of the city more vibrant in the evenings, since there is no residential or tourism development planned for Kings Square at all. The City probably will have to install some defibrillators to give the city square a heartbeat at night.

It is clear that Sirona Capital has problems leasing out the planned office space, and that is delaying the very important project considerably. One has to wonder why there is not more flexibility to change the plans and instead of just commercial space they also build residential and/or short-term accommodation apartments. Real mixed-use should be residential, commercial and retail, not just two out of those three.

Residential and tourist accommodation at Kings Square would see real 24/7 activity in the CBD and it would bring essential passive and active security to the area. What it would also create is the need for small bars, delis, etc, that would also attract people from outside the CBD to Kings Square.

It has been suggested that Newman Court could become a small entertainment area, but now there is talk of making it two-way traffic and short-term parking, so it won’t be very appealing to sit outside looking at cars and the dark back of the planned new library and civic centre at night.

Residential development in the very heart of the city, not just the periphery of it, is in my opinion the one essential element missing in the Kings Square development.

There is no guarantee that the Queens Street and Adelaide Street buildings facing the square will be developed over time in anything else but more offices and shops, while the triangle owned by St John’s church could also be developed for the church’s offices and Sunday School. If that happened Fremantle’s civic square would really only be the High Street road reserve that splits the City triangle from the St John’s triangle, resulting in a lifeless city centre after office hours. That would be a very bad and boring outcome for our city.

Roel Loopers

 

 

 

 

THE REALITY OF FREMANTLE PARKING

Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on September 9, 2014

I am not trying to be disrespectful here, but a lot of City of Fremantle planning appears to be anticipation, speculation, hope and dreaming, as it often lacks hard cold realism. Parking is one such case I believe, so let’s deal with some reality here.

The Point Street public carpark will be lost and become a hotel. The public carpark on the corner of Bannister and Pakenham streets will be lost and developed for mixed-use. The Queensgate public carpark will most likely lose a very significant number of bays that the developers will have to lease out to those companies who will occupy the new offices and shops in the Queensgate and Myer buildings, and who will demand parking for their managers and other staff.

But at the same time two new hotels without parking will be built in Point and Adelaide streets in the CBD, together with short-term accommodation in Pakenham that also won’t have on-site parking for its guests. Just down the road in Cliff Street the 160+ staff of the Mediterranean Shipping Company will also require parking, as will the patrons and staff of the planned Sunset Events tavern at J Shed.

The City of Fremantle is also talking about making more CBD streets into two-way traffic, which would result in the loss of on-street parking bays, and the development of Victoria Quay will no doubt see the $ 6.50 all day parking disappear and make way for multi-storey parking that will be far more expensive.

While Fremantle Council can dream on forever that people who want to live, work and visit Freo will use bikes and public transport, the reality is that most people won’t do that and will come by car and will demand parking in the inner city.

To substitute inner city parking with a carpark at Parry Street near the tennis courts is living in Lala land, because for most visitors to the CBD that will be too far a walking distance to the shops and cafes. Access to the Collie Street carpark is a nightmare when large events happen at the Esplanade or on the Cappuccino Strip, and those events often also take street parking away.

There is talk of a multi-storey capark next to Fremantle Hospital, but I foresee serious traffic issues there on weekends and even more so when festivals are held. That could become even more of a problem if the East Fremantle and South Fremantle football clubs share Fremantle Oval once the Dockers have done their AWOL to Cockburn, as that would mean a footy game at the oval every weekend in the winter months.

The environment is extremely important and I believe most people are very aware that we need to protect it as much as possible and that we need to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but fact is also that our retailers are struggling and some are on the brink of disaster. Making parking more difficult will be to the detriment of those inner city traders. I believe that is unrealistic and irresponsible planning, because Council does have a duty of care to look after those who take the risk of operating their businesses in Fremantle.

When it comes to parking, Fremantle’s Elected members need to get a big injection of a dose of reality, because their green dreams are badly hurting the City’s economy. By all means, strive for five-star Green rating and more people using bikes and public transport, but please remain realistic that this is a long-term goal, while the short-term reality of vehicle parking needs to be addressed urgently.

Could the marketing department also PLEASE deal with the misconception that parking in Fremantle is expensive. Put out weekly advertisements showing what people have to pay in Perth, Subiaco, etc. compared to Freo. And has that mobile phone parking APP gone live yet?

Roel Loopers

COURAGE AND COMMON SENSE

Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on September 8, 2014

It is true that Fremantle is with its back to the wall and it looks like it might get worse before we see major economic improvement, but we need to hang in there and not despair, and not let the pressure get to us.

Mayor Brad Pettitt is right that it is not acceptable that State Government pours millions of dollars into the Perth CBD and other local councils, but has done very little for Fremantle for decades. WA’s second city has to do it all on its own like and unloved step daughter, without any support from the State’s major political parties. The Liberal and Labor parties, when in government, don’t care much about Fremantle and that needs to change fast!

Early next year 1900 jobs will be lost at Fremantle Hospital and there is no doubt this will affect cafes and retailers in the area. It might even mean hospital staff relocating closer to their new workplace Fiona Stanley Hospital.

The delay of the Kings Square development is not helpful and that is something where Premier Colin Barnett could show that he is serious about supporting Fremantle. It should not take two years to make a decision on a government department moving to the port city and the delay is seriously hurting Fremantle, so come on, Premier, give us some good news!

What Fremantle Council should not do however is panic and allow unacceptable development that disregards Fremantle’s unique character and heritage. It should not bend over backward to accommodate developers who promise the world with unsubstantiated claims of leased-out office floors, major retailers, etc. just so Council will accept mediocre buildings that have no place in our city.

It is about pride, courage and integrity. It is always easier to surrender and give in to demands when one is in trouble, but giving in now to fast track development is going to be damaging to Freo in the long term. And who guarantees that landlords will charge reasonable rents in a difficult economic climate. Retailers are leaving because of high rent demands they can’t afford to pay.

This Council made the right calls that Fremantle needed economic development and resurgence, that it needed to be invigorated with modern new buildings, more inner city residents, retailers and office space, and all the ground work for that has been done. Now it needs to relax and not panic. Fremantle Council needs to remain strong and reject development proposals that will ruin what visitors to Fremantle find so special about this place. Giving in to unreasonable demands of poor building design, excessive bulk and height simply because we are desperate to see new buildings going up, is not good governance and would damage the long term future of our city.

I hope our Elected Members consider this when voting on the Atwell Arcade development proposal at Wednesday’s special council meeting. Only approve the building when all the Design Advisory Committee’s concerns have been met by the proponent. Nothing else is good enough for Fremantle.

Roel Loopers

 

WA DESIGN ADVISORY PANEL SYSTEM FLAWED

Posted in fremantle, western australia by freoview on September 4, 2014

There is no doubt the Western Australian Design Advisory Panel system is flawed and one-eyed pro-developers, with the panel frequently overruling local councils when they refuse building applications because of poor design, lack of consideration for streetscapes, unacceptable height and bulk, etc.

There is now a situation where so many high-density residential and mix-use buildings are being approved that there is an oversupply of apartments and REIWA, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia warns that buying apartments might not be a good investment.

We already know that for every one apartment needed in the Perth metro area, two are being built, and most of those are snapped up by overseas investors.

There is also a frantic approval of high-rise office towers going on although there is a huge vacancy in that market as well, as mining and other large companies have been down-sizing. This could well result in Perth ending up with big white elephants of empty buildings, but that is the elephant in the room the WA government ignores to acknowledge. It’s development at all cost in our state, akin to the eighties when the ‘cowboys’ went on a spending spree, went broke, to jail, etc. but in the meantime managed to wreck Perth to a large extent.

The DAP was introduced in 2011 by the Barnett government and has been very controversial since, as it appears to ignore the unique character of suburbs, hence they approved a sixteen-storey building in the centre of Subiaco, and other unwanted buildings in places like Leederville, Vincent, Cottesloe, Scarborough,  Fremantle, Applecross, etc.

Not only is the local character compromised but local council decision-making is belittled and democracy eroded.

Even the advise by local councils’ well-paid Design Advisory Committees of expert architects and planners, is being ignored by the State’s Design Advisory Panel and that is an intolerable situation. While a local DAC might consider the design of a building not up to the standard required, the DAP can overrule that if they consider the building to be of excellent design, which really is a slap in the face of the highly-regarded and very experienced architects who sit on the DAC.

High-rise high-density buildings are no longer built near transit corridors to satisfy demand for residential apartments, but for foreign investment and speculation, to the delight of developers, most of whom could not care less about the ambience of our councils. Older suburbs will forever be damaged when State Government rides rough shot over local council decision-making and we should be deeply worried about that.

Roel Loopers

ONLY THE BEST WILL DO FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle by freoview on August 30, 2014

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.

Roel Loopers

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