This photo taken from the top of the Fremantle Townhall on Friday has historic significance for Fremantle as the inner east CBD will look very different in a few years from now with major development plans for the area.
In about five years we will see the new Woolstores shopping centre commercial, hotel and student development by Silverleaf, the Point Street Hilton Doubletree hotel project, and the eight-storey residential development of the former Spotlight building, and just beyond that the residential development next to the Hotel Australia at Beach Street.
There was a rather exciting BID-Business Improvement District meeting at the National Hotel on Wednesday evening that spelled out the future of the Fremantle inner city, and I was very impressed.
Mayor Brad Pettitt said it was important that the business community engaged with the City and that they went on the journey together.
Pettitt admitted the next 3 years are going to be challenging for inner city traders because of the disruptions caused by the massive development at Kings Square and elsewhere in the CBD.
The Mayor said it was disappointing that the Hilton Doubletree hotel development on the Point Street carpark site will now only start in the first quarter of next year, so that is another lengthy delay.
The more I see of Gerard O’Brien, the boss of Fremantle developers Silverleaf, the more I like his no-nonsense approach and straight-forward message that Fremantle only has a three-year window before Garden City will more than double in size.
“We need to keep moving as we have suffered big time in Fremantle”, O’Brien said. “We need to get our act together and support each other as a community and Council. It needs to be a team effort!”
Silverleaf has huge plans for Fremantle and O’Brien said that they are only the custodians and want to leave something behind that all of Freo can be proud off, not just a glass box.
O’Brien then revealed his plans for the Woolstores shopping centre site and that is very exciting for Fremantle. The development is 26,000 square metres.
There will be an Adina Hotel, commercial floorspace and -hallelujah!- student accommodation! Plus a shopping centre at ground level and underground parking.
Coles will keep trading during the construction period and Gerard O’Brien believed that was essential to keep attracting shoppers into the inner city.
O’Brien said the design of the building pays tribute to the heritage and pays homage to the environment the new building will be in.
I quite like the old&new architecture with red bricks at ground level and vertical cladding similar to the new Perth library and theatre buildings, while the levels above that are very modern, but quite striking and minimalist.
The entire roof will be solar panels, which O’Brien said was a good investment, while the windows will be double-glazed and have new technology in them that will keep out the sun and keep the interior cool. I am impressed!
Silverleaf will also be developing “ the beautiful piece of history” former police and courthouse complex and Warders Cottages at Henderson Street into three-star history tourist accommodation with 64 rooms. It will also have a market place open space and four different concepts that are all about tourism.
New BID CEO Tim Milsom said the transformation of Fremantle is about to happen and that Silverleaf could develop anywhere in the world but chooses to do so in Fremantle.
Milsom said BID have plans for a creative hub and an aspirational business mix but O’Brien said that Fremantle has enough specialty stores.
Milsom said we need to find out from the community and visitors what is missing in Fremantle and what will bring people back. For example there is no hardware store in Freo anymore.
There is no bakery or butcher or corner deli in the CBD either, but more than a dozen new shops will open in Fremantle soon, so that is more good news.
Many 6160 are moving from the former Myer building at Kings Square to the former Spotlight building next to Target and are due to open next week.
I put my neck on the line and say that this is very good news for Fremantle and that we are on the right track to create a great vibrant city where hundreds of tourists will stay over night, eat, drink and shop and where we will finally have many students living in the inner city.
The Fremantle QUEST serviced apartments hotel in Pakenham Street opened yesterday, so let your visitors know about this new accommodation in the port city.
It is very important for the Fremantle economy to keep visitors here over night, instead of them going to Perth or elsewhere, so the more tourist accommodation the better.
I picked out a few more figures from the City of Fremantle annual report to show facts that sometimes do not support the perception(s) people have of Fremantle.
The lament that businesses constantly close in Fremantle is a real but the annual report figures show that 64 new businesses opened while 37 closed and 11 relocated within the city. Not great figures and I’d love to see no shop closures at all and new big retailers opening up in Freo, but the facts are better that community perception.
And here a copy and paste below from the annual report:
Compared to Perth’s metropolitan population, Fremantle shows a lower proportion of people in the younger age groups (0 to 17 years) and a higher proportion of residents in the older age groups (50+ years). Overall, 18% of the residents are under 18 years of age, 8% are between 18 and 24 years, 37% between 25 and 49 years, and 38% are aged 50 years and over.
Fremantle households tend to be smaller than the Perth average with 70% of dwellings housing one or two people, while only 4% have five or more residents. Car ownership reflects this, with 13% of households having no vehicles and fewer than 10% having three or more cars.
Fremantle people are well educated, with 29% of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. At 6.4%, unemployment in the city is slightly higher than the national average.
The Fremantle economy is diverse, with 4 456 registered businesses operating across a wide range of sectors. Many of the city’s enterprises are small businesses, with 20% of active businesses employing fewer than five people.
Interesting about these statistics for me is the average age of the Fremantle population with 38% over the age of 50 years and 37% between the ages of 25 and 49 years of age. This means 75% of Fremantle residents are older than 25 years of age, but there is a strong emphasis at Fremantle Council to create a youth culture in Fremantle that tends to ignore the population reality. I support having a Youth Council but we should also have an Aged Council that represents the vast majority of the population!
I had a look inside the renovated Atwell Arcade building and was very impressed with some of the stunning office spaces they have created on the first floor above Cotton On and the other shops in the High Street Mall.
There is no doubt in my mind that this development is good for the Fremantle retail and hospitality industries and our city overall.
Cotton On will open this Friday and looks very impressive and the modern arcade looks inviting.
Maybe some of the heritage character has been lost but I believe the development is a real gain for Freo and a milestone for the revival of Fremantle.
As I have said before the exterior of the new building is not outstanding but for me an acceptable compromise in this location because it angles away as a huge set back and it appears very soft against the blue sky.
It appears the dire financial situation of the City of Fremantle has shocked some elected members with Councillor Doug Thompson even questioning at the FPOL Committee if the City needed to spend the relatively small sum of $ 54,000 on the first stage of a new club building at Parry Street for the Fremantle Workers, Tennis and Bowling clubs, which is a financial collaboration of the Workers Club, CoF and Department of Recreation and Sport.
Becoming financially more prudence is clearly required and Councillors and officers need to sit down and prioritise expenditure and find savings.
Councillors might have to reconsider the purchase of one or two of the Warders Cottages as community benefits for that are questionable since the cottages are tiny and have limited community use and hence will create limited income for the City but constant expenditure.
While the sale of the Knutsford Street depot will create a big sum of income for the city it might want to reconsider building a new administration building at Kings Square and compromise by extending the present one.
The present building boom will over time see a substantial rate increase for the City with more people buying residential and commercial property in Fremantle, but that is still many years away from making a positive impact on the City’s finances.
Fremantle is in a transformative state of substantial development that will see the City grow and prosper with more tourist, residential and office accommodation. That will also boost the retail and hospitality industries, but council expenditure needs to be more focussed and that can start with the administration increasing its performance in most areas and reducing the costs of external consultants, etc.
It is fantastic to have big plans and dreams for Fremantle, but financial reality has to come first so let’s put a focus group together that will make recommendations to Council on how to improve the City’s financial performance.
The City of Fremantle’s financial position is not very good according to the latest CoF Financial Year 2016 financial statements prepared for the Audit & Risk Management Committee, which includes comments made by the auditor on financial ratios.
A significant loss has been recorded for FY16 and well below budget, and there are pretty unflattering comments about CoFs’ financial ratios.
Assets Sustainability Ratio is below regional & state level, Debt Service Ratio which indicates ability to service debt is limited and declining, and Operating Surplus Ratio has continued to trend downwards and is below both regional and State averages.
The reports states ” …To help alleviate the continued erosion of ratios both the Council and management will need to consider ways to improve the operating position either via increasing revenue or by decreasing expenditure (or combination of both).”
I wonder how much of the expenditure is for personnel cost as there appear to be new people on big salaries popping up regularly at the City of Fremantle. Maybe it’s time for new CEO Phil StJohn to stamp down on expenditure and make his mark as this downward trend is a worry.
Some of the best and easiest ways of supporting Fremantle businesses is to buy local and to write positive reviews about our retailers, restaurants, cafes, etc. on Trip Advisor.
I have 14 Fremantle reviews on Trip Advisor and received information today that in September 12,999 readers read my reviews, so think how big we could be all together if many more people contributed!
73% of readers were from Australia, 8% from Singapore, 4% from Malaysia and 15% from other countries.
Do YOUR bit to support our Freo traders and start writing reviews now!
I took this photo at the Cappuccino Strip late Wednesday afternoon on my way to Council.
PS: I just wrote and posted another five reviews on TA.
I very much liked the Fremantle Network event at the National Hotel on Tuesday evening with a panel of business people.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Olwyn Williams, National Hotel owner and new BID chairman Karl Bullers and Many 6160 manager Kate Hulett were all on the ball of what Fremantle needs, especially Kate with her very positive and embracing call for collaboration was very inspiring to listen to.
Olwyn Williams said Fremantle should be the jewel in the crown as a retail experience but there was a need to reposition the second most visited place in WA. She said there had been a decline in retail and traditional services for years and that Fremantle was mainly a weekend economy.
The Chamber supports more housing and workplace development in the CBD to make Freo shine as a destination again, and we need to have all week activation not just on weekends and evenings.
The East End needs to change and Fremantle needs a fresh look, Olwyn said.
Karl Bullers said that Fremantle has a very strong base to build on but that safety and security are major challenges for the city. Heritage is the strongest asset that can be built on but we also need sympathetic development.
We have a unique city with Bathers Beach in the heart of the city but that is not promoted well enough.
Freo needs serious rejuvenation and busses should not go through Market Street and South Terrace.
Karl also called for free weekday evening parking and I believe that is a very good idea as it probably cost more to have parking inspectors on duty than the City receives from parking meters during the evening hours. He also called for more public toilets.
I cannot stop myself from expressing my admiration for Kate Hullet who manages Many 6160 at Kings Square and also runs the hat shop Kate&Abel there. What great positive and inspirational vibes she produced. The Freo glass is more than half full when one listens to her.
Kate said we need to stop saying THEY need to do something about it in Fremantle when it is all of us who can be part of the changes and improvements. “We’ve got the power ourselves to change Fremantle!”
We need to challenge people’s perception of Fremantle. It is a wonderful place and we need to stop the boring repetitive negative record, Kate said.
She also said businesses needed to do more cross promotion on social media to support one another and that we need cultural events that are all encompassing.
The present and future presidents of the Notre Dame Students Association were rightly upset that none of the panel speakers had mentioned the significant economic contribution the students and staff make to Fremantle and I agree with that.
As I said tonight, I don’t believe we are selling the Fremantle story very well at all with people from out of town not being made prominently aware of cheap all-day parking spaces all over Fremantle and we can do a whole lot better than that. Fremantle has a great positive story to tell and the entire community should be doing that!