SIRONA CAPITAL managing director Matthew McNeilly spoke about the Kings Square project his company is doing in partnership with the City of Fremantle at the monthly Fremantle Network event on Monday evening.
The great news is that the KS Project will not be done in 3 stages as was planned previously but that Sirona has decided to do the whole project in one stage, which means the Civic Centre and Library, designed by Kerry Hill architects, will be built at the same time as the former Myer and Queensgate buildings development.
This will mean a much shorter period of having building sites at Kings Square which would be disruptive for local businesses and traffic, so hoorah to that. It means we will see businesses moving in by the end of 2019 before Christmas!
Demolition of the Queensgate building will start in April and building will commence in July 2017, but the concrete structure of the Many building will be retained, which is better for the environment as well.
The total development site is 2 hectare and the project costs are $ 280 million, so one of the biggest development projects ever done in Fremantle. It will create 20,000 sqm of office space and 5,500 sqm of retail space with the possibility of entertainment areas such as a cinema.
A new feature has been added with a retail “trench” between the buildings that will be on different levels and break up the facades fronting Kings Square. The trench will run from Newman Court to William Street and will have food, bar, retailers, lots of greenery and seating.
The facades will have lots of timber but also brick and other surfaces and there will be lots of greenery, even in the basement.
The carpark will be significantly modernised and integrated in the development.
I believe the Kings Square Project is a game changer for Fremantle and that the modern new shops will attract new people to town and significantly benefit the Fremantle retail and hospitality traders. I went to the brand-new Cotton On shop in the High Street mall yesterday and it was very busy there and a delight to shop in a modern large environment. It felt very good, so I bought some new T-shirts.
On another positive note Matthew McNeilly told the audience that the Heirloom by Match residential development on Queen Victoria Street was completed on Monday, so people will soon move into their new apartments. That will be the first of the big positive change of the run down East End of the CBD, with the construction of the large LIV apartment development by Defence Housing opposite Heirloom, commencing early next year.
Freo is on the move and it is a well-overdue, very positive and exciting one! I can’t wait!!!
GODOT FINALLY ARRIVED AT KINGS SQUARE!
Premier Colin Barnett this morning announced that 1,500 public servants will relocate to Fremantle and that the Housing and Corrective Services departments will have their new headquarters in Fremantle, as well as the Department of Transport.
The Premier said it was seen as good to have several agencies sharing the two Kings Square buildings and that this will be a major boost for retail after Fremantle has languished for a long time.
The State Government will save $ 53 million over 15 years with the relocation of the departments which are part of the government’s plans for decentralisation of the public sector. This is the biggest decentralisation by the government, Colin Barnett said..
Sirona Capital managing director Matthew McNeilly said he was thrilled with the support the government has shown for the Kings Square development and that Sirona will invest a quarter of a billion dollars into the project. It will be the catalyst to the start of a seven-day a week economy in Fremantle.
The project will be a vast improvement to the public realm with new retail and entertainment and 20,000 sqm of office space. Demolition will start in April/May next year and building will commence soon after with retailers moving in by late 2019. McNeilly said that projects of this complexity can be very time consuming.
A delighted Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said that this was probably the most significant day in Fremantle since the America’s Cup in the mid 1980s and a real catalyst for a wave of investment in Fremantle.
This is a vote of confidence in Fremantle by the government and will give the city a proper heart. It is a real milestone into the future, the Mayor told the media and the large group of Councillors and City staff.
For years I have vented my frustration about the lack of progress of the Kings Square development and compared it with the Samuel Becket play Waiting for Godot, so I am delighted to eat my words and am looking forward to the development that should make a significant difference to Fremantle’s economic recovery.
I am not a financial experts at all, and while I respect the opinion of professional auditor Craig Ross and financial expert Martin Lee who have warned against the financial implications for the City of Fremantle and its ratepayers, I also need to respect the opinion of the expert consultants employed by the City of Fremantle who have a different opinion. I cannot judge who is right or wrong on this.
What price are we willing to pay to invest in the future I ask myself and only the future will tell us that.
I now hope Sirona Capital and the CoF will agree to make fully public the financial and business details as commercial confidentiality surely no longer applies.
I am truly delighted and needed a boost after the Trump disaster yesterday, so let’s get out the bubblies and celebrate Fremantle’s bright future!
A little bit more detail has emerged about the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association engaging prominent Cottesloe lawyer John Hammond to investigate the Kings Square Project deal between the City of Fremantle and Sirona Capital.
John Hammond told the West Australian ” He would investigate whether the city had complied with the Local Government Act.”
This implies that FRRA believes that Tony Simpson, Minister for Local Government failed to do his job properly when they asked him last year to investigate the matter, and the minister declared it was all above board.
It should not take long then for John Hammond to do that investigation as the Local Government Act should be pretty straight forward.
Let’s hope it can all be dealt with fast so the project can commence as soon as possible so the square comes alive again.
I realise the Kings Square Project and its handling by the City of Fremantle has divided community opinion, which has now resulted in the Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association engaging prominent lawyer John Hammond to try to stop the development.
I also know that by publishing this article the same opponents will bring up the same arguments we have read many times and heard at Council and during public meetings. I don’t want to rehash all the pros and cons, but ask what it would mean for Fremantle if a court challenge succeeded.
The first hurdle is probably that the Department of Housing would not sign a long-term lease with Sirona Capital unless it can guarantee that the development will go ahead within an appropriate time frame, so even if the legal challenge is not successful it could delay the Kings Square Project substantially.
The legal and financial ramifications for the City of Fremantle and its ratepayers, should a court challenge to stop the development be successful, could be enormous, as it is likely that Sirona Capital would want compensation in the millions of dollars from COF. It is also likely that Kerry Hill Architects which won the Civic Centre architect competition would want compensation if the building is cancelled.
At the end we could end up with huge costs to the City and no development at Kings Square, and that would be a huge shame in my opinion.
It is very disappointing that the Kings Square Project public relations has been so inadequately managed by the City and has left too much room for doubt, although many Councillors made very strong presentations and assured the community they had listened to and challenged expert consultants and staff and were satisfied they had crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is.
I do support the Kings Square Project because I believe substantial inner city development is essential for Fremantle to grow and become a shopping destination again, but I am disappointed about the lack of transparency and the City citing commercial confidentiality.
A few hundred dissatisfied Fremantle residents who are not happy with the answers they received about the financial details, will now question the democratic process and the right for local government to make tough decisions, sell assets and invest in the future. It will be very fascinating to hear the legal arguments in court.
Whatever the outcome, I fear this will do serious damage to brand Fremantle when it has just started a very good recovery process of many new buildings in the CBD and many more planned for the very near future. It makes me sad that we are such a divided community and that there is so much negativity and political point scoring. There will be no winners at the end of it.
Architect Nic Brunsdon, the owner of Spacemarket and inventor of the Fremantle Kings Square Many 6160 retail incubator concept sent me the interesting research report Many 6169 Social and Economic Evaluation by Hannah Sutton.
The report is too extensive to publish in full but I will add it as a pdf to this blog post. Below some highlights from the report:
MANY6160 is a temporary space activation project that invited creative individuals and entrepreneurs to inhabit the vacant space. The results have demonstrated that this not only re-established active streetscapes but also provided many social and economic benefits to the tenants, and the community.
The makeover was spearheaded by Spacemarket and supported by the City of Fremantle and the building owner, Sirona Capital. MANY6160 is a large, previously unused and underutilised reactivated space for enterprise to gather, collaborate, and produce. “A place of curated, supportive, complimentary and quality operators working together towards the common goal of an active and vibrant Fremantle” –MANY 6160.
At 20,000m2 it has now become, to the best of the project team’s knowledge, “the worlds largest interior space activation”.
The community benefits of MANY6160 include:
- Creation of Jobs
- Improved “Brand Freo.”
- Improved security in the area, activating streetscapes
- Improved business and community confidence in the local area
- Contribution to the local economy The tenant benefits of MANY6160 include:
- Affordability of space
- Customer sharing and more exposure
- Business growth and skills development
- Networking and collaborative opportunities
- Allowance for experimentation
- “Graduated” businesses
From the initial joint funding of $45,000 from the City of Fremantle and Spacemarket more than 100 new businesses have operated from MANY6160 in Fremantle, over 20 businesses that became established enough to seek their own tenancy elsewhere, over 500 part time and full time jobs and thousands of dollars generated into the local economy due to weekly employee expenditure at local businesses.
“MANY6160 is a case in point for the retention of urban ghosts, for passive energy management, and for new, collaborative forms of retail and urban habitation.”
The report also states that Many 6160 has 580 daily average visits and 695 daily average walkbys and that Many 6160 has produced 500+ people employed, 100+ business start-ups, 20+ graduates, 25 artists, 80+ retail stores, 95 workshop events, 70 events hosted, 1 wedding party, 2 motorbike shows, 12 murals painted, 5 music videos filmed, 70% of 20,000 sqm space used, 5 art galleries, 2 pop-up bars, and 100,000 happy customers.
The likelihood of the Kings Square Project now going ahead has improved a lot since Sirona Capital was announced as the preferred tenderer for a government department move to Fremantle, so that would mean the end of Many 6160 at Kings Square. The question is if Spacemarket and the City of Fremantle will want Many to continue and if a suitable space can be found to continue the innovative project.
What a good scoop for the Fremantle Herald which today reported on their front page that Sirona Capital has been announced as the preferred tenderer for a state department to move to Fremantle’s Kings Square.
Finance Minister Bill Marmion told the Herald that the finance department will start negotiations with Sirona Capital, which means the tender by Fremantle based Silverleaf to get a department to move to the to be developed Woolstores shopping centre site has been unsuccessful.
This is a huge step forward for the Kings Square project which would see the Myer and Queensgate buildings developed and a new building on the Spicers site carpark on the corner of William and Henderson streets, as well as the building of a new civic centre at Kings Square.
It was always going to be hard for Silverleaf to win the tender process as I have no doubt the City of Fremantle would have made it clear to State Government that their Kings Square development would be in limbo without a department moving there.
There is no doubt though that State Government will have the upper hand in the tender negotiations as they and Sirona Capital are well aware that without a department moving to Kings Square the project is dead in the water, so the State will expect an exceptionally good deal from Sirona in a period where the commercial property market is soft and office vacancy is at an all time record.
I believe the Kings Square development will be a huge boost for the revitalisation of Fremantle’s CBD and can’t wait for it to get started.
Well done Fremantle Herald for getting the exclusive, without even boasting about it!
There will be a few nervous people at the City of Fremantle and Sirona Capital as they are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the tender process for the Department of Housing move to Fremantle.
This has been an epic saga since then minister Troy Buswell announced the relocation of Housing four years ago, but it never eventuated.
Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan have said a decision would be announced in August so hopefully we will finally get an outcome and will know if the important Kings Square development in Fremantle will go ahead.
Although Sirona Capital on several occasions said they had a plan B if a State department does not move into the former Myer building, it is unlikely the project will go ahead, and Sirona is running out of time as the contract with the City expires in October.
The planned joint Kings Square project between the City of Fremantle and Sirona Capital gets a lot of criticism so I think it is fair to publish this email I received from Sirona’s Managing Director Matthew McNeilly late this afternoon in full. I would have put it on earlier but just wanted to clarify with Matthew that it could be published:
Your blog today on the new hotel proposed for Fremantle has been brought to my attention. In particular, some inaccurate comments from Andrew Eastick who used to work for the City of Fremantle. I can only deduce that he’s not a fan of the City anymore!
Anyway, to provide clarity on his comments, I held discussions with Toga (TFE) several years ago. At the time, Andrew was promoting the City Admin building site (owned by the City) as a potential hotel site. His enthusiasm was shared by few. After much debate around the development of the CODA devised Kings Square design guidelines, Council decided (I think quite rightly) that a hotel was not the highest and best use for that particular site and that civic uses should be pursued alongside the historic Town Hall. I should emphasise this decision was not Sirona’s. Nonetheless, we recognised the need for more hotel accommodation in Fremantle and decided to develop a Quest branded apartment hotel on the corner of Pakenham and Short Streets. Interestingly, Toga also considered this opportunity. We felt this west end location, between the Fremantle Station and the University of Notre Dame, was a far superior hotel location to King Square. Quest clearly agreed. This $42M project will be open and operating before Christmas. From reading the article in The Australian about the Adina proposed for the Woolstores Shopping Centre, it sounds like the owner TFE may not be not aware of this?
Anyhow, Andrew then goes onto comment that Gerard O’Brien from Silverleaf has on a number of occasions expressed scepticism about Sirona’s capacity to bring the $270M Kings Square redevelopment to fruition. We have the greatest deal of respect for Gerard and his shared enthusiasm for making Fremantle great again, so I can’t actually imagine him saying anything negative about the project or our capacity to deliver Kings Square. We remain very confident that we will deliver Kings Square and only this week we tabled our final submission as part of the government’s RFP process. I have always said the project has never been contingent on securing a government agency but our clear preference is to do just that because of what it delivers … over 2,000 office and retail FTEs, all working, shopping, being entertained etc. right in the heart of Fremantle’s CBD. Instead of being constantly questioned, perhaps we should actually be applauded for our patience and our desire to maximise the extraordinary economic benefits this project will generate for Fremantle? And no, these economic benefits aren’t defined by a narrow NPV calculation of the cost of developing a new council chambers, admin. offices, visitor centre and Library.
And whilst we have been developing and honing our plans for Kings Square (and yes Roel, there is a Plan B) .. we have not been idle. In addition to the Quest hotel, we have made other substantial investments in Fremantle that include developing the $130M Heirloom apartment project (a joint venture with M Group and due for completion at the end of the year) and purchasing the Adelaide Street Plaza Shopping Centre. Plus we have several other, yet to be announced, development projects in our pipeline.
So maybe the reference to our capacity is about the fact that we’ve got a lot on, and which would be a fair comment.
My request for a statement from Sirona Capital about the Department of Housing not moving to Fremantle’s Kings Square has received a surprisingly negative reaction from Managing Director Matthew McNeily. He texted that his comments were not for publication and while I don’t have to I will respect that. McNeilly does not seem to want to accept my assurances that I am all for the Kings Square development. I participated in all the community workshops and citizen jury about it because I wanted the best possible outcome for Fremantle.
Surely it is my right to express my concerns about the delay as that is also a deep concern for the Freo community and business sector. The Kings Square development is vital for the economic recovery of our city, so I and many others take a deep interest in it because we want a positive outcome for Fremantle.
So let me quote from the ABC article I based yesterday’s blog post on and ask what is negative about what I wrote.
In the Legislative Counci at a budget estimates hearing “Housing Minister Colin Holt backed away from the Government’s previous commitment to relocate the Department of Housing to Fremantle.”
“The Department currently occupies four different buildings in the CBD and has expressed its desire to consolidate into one.”
“Officials said a move to new premises was not expected in the next three years.”
So what is negative and not factual about the blog post I wrote after last night’s Council meeting? Shooting the messenger won’t get Sirona’s partnership Kings Square project with the City of Fremantle off the ground, so why don’t Sirona and COF now tell us what your Plan, B, or C, or D is for the Kings Square development.
McNeilly and the Fremantle Mayor have told me in the past that there are alternative plans, so give us the chance to write something positive, because I would dearly and sincerely love to write a really good and positive article about exciting greatness that is going to happen at our civic square. The Freo community has been waiting a long time for it.
Claiming I am negative about the development is factually wrong. I am excited about the Kings Square development but it can’t be on hold indefinitely because Fremantle needs revitalisation NOW, not in ten years when it will be too late for many businesses in town.