NOTRE DAME REVEALS WEST END BUILDING PLANS
Notre Dame University today invited the community to have a look at the plans for the development of the vacant site on the corner of High and Cliff streets in the historic West End of Fremantle and unfortunately it looks as if it is going to be controversial.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson said it was outrageous to propose five storeys in the West End Conservation Area as it was not allowed under the City of Fremantle planning rules for the precinct, and I tend to agree with him, but with some reservations.
My biggest worry is setting precedents in the West End for higher buildings as other developers are waiting in the wings for more height in Henry Street and High streets, etc.
But I also acknowledge the reality of the very ugly five storey, plus huge towers at No 1 High Street and the new UNDA building would cover up the back of this monstrosity.
UNDA also wants ground level activation by putting a 220 seat theatre in the building and a bar/cafe, function centre/exhibition space, which would help that end of town a lot as it is a ghost town at night and on weekends.
But should the community compromise on height in the historic old town to cover up another ugly building and to achieve activation? We have a choice to make here that is very important and it’s a difficult one!
The height of the old Tram Building facade is equivalent to four storeys of the ugly No 1 building, as my photo above shows.
I also question the sharp angle of the building as it would have been softer and give more reference to heritage buildings in the vicinity to make the corner of the building at Cliff and High streets round.
The new building would house the nursing school that is getting inundated with applications to the extend that UNDA had to reject some people.
Vice Chancellor Celia Hammond told us the university is doing a complete external audit of its buildings and uses to see if they can be better used and help activation in the West End.
Celia Hammond said the university now has 6,000 students and 1,700 staff and had 24,000 visitors for events. It is estimated that UNDA students spend $ 2.5 million a year on coffee, etc and no doubt the substantial university staff will also support the Fremantle economy.
As I said at the meeting I am getting annoyed with beautiful artist impressions that do not clearly show the reality and impact of planned new buildings and it is time the City of Fremantle insisted on 3D plans for these kind of significant building, so that the community can get a clear and factual impression of what is proposed.
The UNDA building will cost between $ 14-17 million, so it surely is not a big deal to spend a few thousand dollars on 3D imagery.
The present vacant block and the back of the awful No 1 High Street building are an eyesore, so a new building will help improve the area, and a theatre, bar, exhibition space will no doubt make a huge difference as well and connect with the J Shed art precinct, but all parties need to be willing to compromise a little and that is going to be a big ask I fear.