I just read through the Parliament Hansard minutes and I believe there is still a glimmer of hope that State Government will move a department to Fremantle in the future, with Premier Colin Barnett expressing his respect for Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt and leaving the door open to move government employees to Freo.
He indicated that the government had discussions with the developers-Sirona Capital-and that the process might go to tender, but he also said that a move to Fremantle is not necessarily a win for the state but would to help revitalise the dying heart of the city, so it might be worth for the state paying the price for that to assist the efforts of Fremantle Council.
My personal fear is that it has now become a political campaign that could become detrimental for Fremantle. It might be better if the Labor opposition pulled back and let the discussions between Fremantle Council and State Government continue, as our city desperately needs the Kings Square development to revive our dying inner city.
I have expressed before how much I like Sirona Capital‘s commitment to Fremantle, as they are also involved in other development in the inner city, including the Heirloom by Match development of the Dalgety woolstores, the Quest Hotel in Pakenham street, and Adelaide Plaza.
Gerard O’Brien’s Silverleaf and Sirona are the main players in the revitalisation of inner city Fremantle, with Silverleaf building the Atwell Arcade and soon developing the Woolstores shopping centre site.
It is sometimes difficult not to despair in Fremantle when new development plans are delayed, but I don’t want to give up hope that in 5-10 years from now Fremantle will have a vibrant CBD with a mix of heritage and well-designed modern buildings, many more residents and office workers, a great retail variety, and that our Freo will become the proud second city of our state. If I did not believe this can happen I would move away to a suburb that is more affordable to live in.
Friends and I were talking on the weekend about the Fremantle Esplanade reserve draft Masterplan and the problems associated with accommodating people enjoying it, allowing for events to be staged on the reserve, and looking after the grass and trees. We wondered if large green open spaces are still sustainable in our changing climate where we receive a lot less rain than in the past and have a dryer and hotter climate to deal with.
Most people don’t want more concrete in parks but designated walkways on the Esplanade, which will protect the grass, and extending the mulched areas under trees, seems to me to be a sensible proposal. It would also require less water for reticulation, so that would be an added bonus.
We have a fast increasing population in WA and plans for thousands more residents in the Fremantle inner city, and that means more people will need access to outdoor facilities, but can our society still afford to look after large green grass open spaces that require extensive and expensive watering and maintenance?
Most of us probably believe that densely populated cities need more green open spaces to allow those who live in apartments access to grassed areas to play on and have a picnic, etc, but is that still practical and realistic, or should we look for alternative ways to create public spaces, and what would such new spaces look like?
In a state where there is water shortage we can no longer afford to waste drinking water on the reticulation of vast lawns, so can we recycle water and use grey water instead, and where to take it from? The Esplanade Masterplan draft suggests an underground tank to take used water from Little Creatures to water the reserve, and that might be a practical solution, depending on what the costs would be to install and maintain the system.
I am not a greenie, but there is no doubt in my mind that climate change will force us to do things differently and better, and that could mean fewer private grassed gardens and green verges and quite different public open spaces that recognise the need to reduce water consumption.
No one likes to see more concrete, but paths throughout parks that protect the grass, and mulched areas under trees, are acceptable compromises to make sure our urban nature remains healthy for all of us to enjoy longer. Paved paths are also easier to use than grass for disabled people and wheelchair and gopher users, and for parents with prams.
To assist with reducing water use we should also call for our governments to implement a law that requires new residential buildings to have a water tank for the collection of rainwater. When many thousands of household collect their own water, even if what they collect would only lasts for a month or two, would make a significant impact and create less strain on our water supply.
Gardens and parks are beautiful and we need those green lungs and many more trees in our cities, but native vegetation that requires a lot less water needs to be considered more and we will probably have to accept that huge grass areas are no longer sustainable in our present climate.
I am not a big fan of artificial grass, but is it something our governments should consider as an option? What do you think we could change and improve when designing new public open spaces?
Developers MATCH are proposing a micro brewery for the mix-use development of the former Fremantle Energy Museum building at 12 Parry Street which has as neighbours across the road the Basilica and Clancy’s and is only a stone’s throw from the HEIRLOOM BY MATCH residential development of the former Dalgety Woolstore at Queen Victoria Street.
The proposal for a five-floor 4o residential apartments development and street level micro brewery would greatly assist the activation of the East of the CBD, where other new development is already under way or short before commencing.
The former Boys School as Princess May Park should also find new operators soon and I noticed development activity next to the Australia Hotel at Beach Road as well on Friday, so there is a lot going on in the east end of Freo.
The Special Projects Committee of the City of Fremantle was interesting last night and it made me wonder how far ahead we should expect our governments to plan. It came as a surprise to me when the officers pointed out that at some stage in the future, because of rising sea water levels, the Esplanade Reserve could get flooded. Is that too far away to take into consideration now I wonder, or should we raise the level of the park? But if we raised the level water would have to go somewhere the officer warned and that might be running back toward the CBD. An interesting challenge for Freo Council.
Councillor Sullivan questioned where the events would go if moved from the Esplanade, while Councillor Pemberton asked what the healthy balance for the grass would be and how many events should be allowed to take place there and at what intervals. It is strange that this question gets only asked now and during the debate about a new Masterplan as that should have been considered a long time ago. Maybe the officers could take more leadership here and tell Council what it takes to keep grassed areas in parks healthy and how many events per year the surface can cope with.
The eventual relocation of the Carriage Cafe is still years away, if it ever happens and if the community is happy with it, but one of the reasons, that dropping limbs from the 110-year-old trees would endanger the safety of cafe patrons, made me ask the officer after the committee meeting if the trees around the playground were not of similar age. Planning officer Ian James told me they were and the City needed to keep an eye on them. It seems strange to me that the draft Masterplan does not specify that the playground, where hundreds of kids play on weekends, should be relocated to ensure the safety of the children and parents.
Interesting to note also that the proposed Masterplan considers extending the park all the way to the Shipwreck Museum. When I suggested during the Youth Plaza consultation that the carpark at the museum could be a good alternative location for the skatepark it was dismissed out of hand.
FICRA resident Chris Grisenwood rightly pointed out to me that we have now asked for years to have many of the things in the draft Masterplan and making it into an A Class Reserve is another one of them, including circulating events to other locations to put less stress on the park.
Six weeks community consultation, deep listening and common sense will hopefully make the new Masterplan a good document for the future of the Esplanade. It is the playground for all of Fremantle and beyond and an important green lung for the inner city.
The proposed new Masterplan for the Fremantle Esplanade Reserve will be debated at Council for the first time tomorrow at the Special Projects Committee and while it will delight local residents and businesses it will probably get heavy thunder from Carriage Cafe owner Kel Smith.
The draft Masterplan by the consultants and COF officers proposes to progressively relocating large commercial events away from the Esplanade, as it could be concluded that such festivals as the Chilli and Jerome Laneway have outgrown the park.
For Kel Smith and the Carriage Cafe it looks as if the planned extension can be put on hold till after his lease expires in 2019, as the Masterplan draft proposes to create a so called ‘park hub’ between the Esplanade Youth Plaza and the Ferris Wheel to accommodate a cafe, shade structures, bike repairs and other short term entertainment.
The consultants believe the current location of the cafe is inappropriate in the long term and might become detrimental to the trees and that could endanger the cafe, patrons and staff. They also believe the (low) heritage value of the Carriage Cafe will be more apparent closer to the railway line
Larger mulch areas around trees to protect them will reduce the grassed area by 40% an way finding paths and restricted truck access are all considered to protect the grass that is seriously damaged and needs to be replaced totally.
It will be interesting to hear the debate tomorrow and see what changes the Councillors want to make, and the excessisve financial costs might make this a very long term project.
I love being a photographer but in my next life I would not mind being a city planner as it fascinates me how to cater for such a diverse range of people and needs and blending reality and priority with the big dreams for the future.
Today has been fantastic to create more community debate with a great opinion piece in the West Australian by renowned WA Government Architect Geoff Warn, a blog post on two outer suburbs of the German city of Freiburg by Freo Mayor Brad Pettitt, and CUSP professor Peter Newman stating on ABC that building in backyards creates slums.
Let’s quickly dismiss Newman’s nonsense. Granny flats are great to cater for low income people but also as extra income B&B. Small residential blocks have been successful for centuries in Europe so the notion that we should either have quarter acre blocks or live in highrise along transit corridors, as Newman preaches, should be shrugged off as ideological narrow-mindedness. It also questions the City of Fremantle’s small dwellings policy.
Now to the far more positive and realistic stuff of planning great cities. As Geoff Warn writes in the West “A city is charactarised by the quality of housing and good cities embrace variety, accessibility and vitality.” But he also expresses concerns about bland, low-cost and profit-driven housing on the outer edges of the urban sprawl.
On one of my very rare visits to Perth today I was impressed with the hive of building activity, but also very disappointed with the very unimpressive architectural design quality of most buildings. The only buildings that stands out is the colourful and quirky Perth Arena but the rest is just boring.
What impressed me most in central Perth today was the great mural art. It works extremely well in the narrow laneways and they make a great contrast to the overpowering boredom of the highrises that dwarf them.
Geoff Warn writes “Good architecture and urban design contributes to a well-designed public realm…” That sadly seems to have been forgotten by most of the architects and city planners when it comes to the Perth CBD.
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is very excited on his blog about two outer suburban developments in Freiburg, where cars are not parked in garages or carports but in a multi-storey carpark on the edge. Residents can only drop off and pick up and for the rest the streets are narrow to accommodate children playing safely. Brad also writes that public open space takes up to 30% of the developments, in contrast to WA where it is not even 10%.
I believe the message in this for Fremantle is not to try to copy these concepts in the shopping destination CBD but create suburbs like in Freiburg on the outer edges, e.g. Knutsford Street, and if it is not too late even the North Freo McCabe Street development could benefit from emulating some of what Freiburg has done.
To finish off I quote architect Geoff Warn one more time ” This is the time for more pragmatic research, for more in-depth dialogue and critical debate, and a shift in attitudes toward greater diversity, improved quality and sustainability.” Hear, Hear!!