Freo's View

TRANSFORMING OUR CITY

Posted in fremantle, future, local government, perth, planning by freoview on April 1, 2015

Fifty artists, 42 city walls and 18 international ‘change makers” will come to Perth for the PUBLIC 2015 symposium that will transform the city.

Large-scale artworks will be created during PUBLIC 2015 that will run from April 10-19. The International symposium will explore the value of creativity in building dynamic spaces and will have international speakers from the arts, architecture, urban planning, technology and philantropy.

This will be very interesting in the light of the just released UWA-Factbase for the Committee of Perth-Fremantle section by Veronica Hudleston.

Hudleston writes that city planning “needs to be on maintaining a unique set of advantages and attributes that attract and retain population.” She also warns that population growth should not happen at all cost, but that we should be planning and developing a desired demographic structure rather than the simplistic pursuit of growth.

Hudleston also mentions that the City of Fremantle already has a relatively higher level of population density and that East Fremantle is one of the highest population densities in the Perth metro area.

While the Perth metro had an increase of population of 29.3 per cent, Fremantle only managed 8.2 per cent in the period from 2001-2011.

I am looking forward to the PUBLIC 2015 sympsosium!

FREO KINGS SQUARE QUESTIONS IN W.A. PARLIAMENT

Posted in city of fremantle, local government, western australia by freoview on March 26, 2015

The unease in the Fremantle community about the Kings Square project, the delays and the financial implications for the City of Fremantle have now reached W.A. Parliament House with MLA Peter Tinley asking a question without notice to Minister for Local Government Tony Simpson:

(1) Is the Minister aware of community concerns over how the City of Fremantle has represented the financial implications of their $45 million investment of ratepayer funds in its Kings Square Business Plan, and if so, what action has the Minister taken to address these concerns?
(2) Has the Minister directed the City of Fremantle to answer legitimate ratepayer questions concerning the Kings Square Business Plan, and if not, why not?
(3) Has the Minister conducted a full and proper investigation into the questions raised with regard to the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) if so, what were the findings; and
(b) if not, why not?
(4) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan:
(a) accurately represents the financial implications that the $45 million project will have on the City of Fremantle’s asset base; and
(b) correctly represents the rate of return and net present value derived from this investment of ratepayer funds?
(5) Is the Minister satisfied that the Kings Square Business Plan contains sufficient detail for ratepayers and Councillors to properly understand whether this project increases or decreases the asset base of the City of Fremantle, and if so, for what reason?

The Fremantle Society applied to see the business plan and contract the City of Fremantle signed with Sirona Capital but CEO Graeme McKenzie responded that legal advise was to not grant permission to do so.

Hiding behind commercial confidentiality won’t give the Freo residents and ratepayers any confidence in the process and integrity of it.

Roel Loopers

FREMANTLE CITY TO BAIL OUT HEIRLOOM PROJECT

Posted in city of fremantle, development, heirloom by match by freoview on March 23, 2015

City of Fremantle Councillors will on Wednesday evening consider if it is appropriate and in the best interest of the City to purchase up to five apartments in the Heirloom by Match residential development on Queen Victoria Street. Match want to develop the heritage-listed former Dalgety Woolstores site but the pre-sales have been slow due to an over supply of residential units in the Perth metro area. Match needs pre-sales of 125 units but have only sold 118 so far.

The City is asked to support the development, and a building start by possibly April this year, by investing $ 3 million for five discounted one and two bedroom apartments in the complex.

I believe this is an interesting dilemma as it might set expectations and precedents for other commercial development in Fremantle. The Kings Square development for example is being delayed more and more, so what if Sirona Capital asked the City to help bail them out as well in some way or form? What if the Atwell Arcade developers can’t find someone to lease their ground-level shops? Should the city lease or purchase anything at all they don’t require to run a local government? Instead of purchasing five residential apartments, would it maybe be better for the COF to offer a loan to Match, and would that be appropriate to do?

As the officers point out in the agenda, it is unlikely the City would make a profit on the sale of the units because the residential market is down, there is an over supply of new units on the market, so COF might sit on the units for years and might even have to start renting them out which would incur maintenance and management costs for a long period.

The WA State Government is making a huge loss on apartments they bought in Karratha to support residential development there, so I don’t think the City of Fremantle should risk $ 3 million of ratepayers’ money to help private developers who are set to make millions.

The pressure developers constantly put on local councils that if they don’t do this or that than development will not go ahead is something Councillors need to reject, as it has become a common approach by developers to force Councils into making decisions that are highly unpopular in the community.

We all want Fremantle to move forward, progress and develop and we all want to see more life injected into the East of the city, and I really like the Heirloom development, but private developers take financial risks based on expected large profits and local government should not get sucked into speculative investment, supposedly because otherwise a development is not viable. Let’s not forget that Match also intends to develop the former Energy Museum site into residential and commercial, so why take that on when they can’t even get enough pre-sales for the Heirloom project?

Roel Loopers

BIKES INSTEAD OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Posted in bikes, fremantle, TRAFFIC, western australia by freoview on March 15, 2015

The article in the weekend West Australian newspaper that many more people are using their bicycles to go to work is a positive one as it shows the message is getting across. It’s always been a surprise to me that people in colder climate countries hop on their bike more than we do in Australia, so it seems to be turning around a bit.

The negative aspect of it is that people appear to be going to work by bike because of public transport not coping with the demand, and car traffic becoming a nightmare because of traffic jams from the CBD to Joondalup and Rockingham.

The get on your bikes message is good as long as it remains realistic and considers the rapidly ageing population, where many older people might not feel safe or comfortable riding bikes for longer distances, or at all, so it is also essential to improve public transport, especially on weekends when it is often hard to get connections to the suburbs.

Fremantle Council has been pushing the bike agenda, and trying to reduce the use of cars, for years, but the approach is inconsistent. I was aghast to see an artist impression of a tram down the Cappuccino Strip as part of the Transformational Moves presentation by the MayorThat is not at all what the Freo Visioning 2029 workshops called for. They wanted a traffic-free pedestrian zone there, not trams!

Lightrail in Fremantle will remain a pipe dream for decades to come because neither the Labor nor the Liberal party has indicated they would support and fund lightrain in and around Fremantle. The population figures simply don’t add up and it is more realistic that lightrial in the northern suburbs could happen in the next 10 years.

It would be interesting to see if the combined forces of Cockburn, Melville and Fremantle could come up with an integrated lightrail approach and try to get private funding, but unfortunately most of the time local councils don’t work well together and prefer grand standing news grabs to promote their own cities.

Decentralisation of work destinations and commercial-satelite CBD-activity hubs would help reduce the mad peak hour rush to and from Perth twice a day. That requires out of the box thinking by the government and private sector.

Roel Loopers

WHAT WILL LABOR DO FOR FREO?

Posted in city of fremantle, labor party by freoview on March 8, 2015

It is interesting to note that in his first major policy speech about revitalisation of suburban centres W.A state Labor leader Mark McGowan did not mention Fremantle.

It is nice to see Labor thinking along the same lines as I proposed to decentralise work destinations and to create activity centres in suburbs to curb the urban sprawl, but it is disappointing McGowan mentioned Joondalup, Rockingham, Cockburn, Murdoch, Ellenbrook, Mirrabooka and Morley, but not a word about Freo.

History shows that neither Labor nor the Liberals have done much for Fremantle when in power in Western Australia, so would Labor look after the port city better should they win the state election in about two years from now?

Maybe it is time for Fremantle Member Simone McGurk to let the Freo community know what her wish list for Fremantle is and how hard she is lobbying her leader to finally get things done for Freo. Without state and federal support and a lot of private investment non of the transformational dreams of Fremantle Council will ever become reality unfortunately.

Roel Loopers

DECENTRALISATION IS THE FUTURE

Posted in development, fremantle by freoview on March 2, 2015

The article and opinion piece in today’s West Australian are an interesting insight in how WA governments, present and past, have mismanaged the development of the Perth metropolitan area and public transport. The article is about the book CITY LIMITS by Jane-Frances Kelly and Pat Donegan that was published by the influential Grattan Institute.

The authors claim that in some new Perth suburbs only one per cent of the residents live within a one hour bus or train journey to their place of work and that there is a lack of good public transport to the outer suburbs. They say that while there is job growth in the established inner city the population growth happens in the outer suburbs, where there are fewer job opportunities that are paid significantly less than jobs in the CBD.

The book claims that traffic gridlock in Perth will be inevitable unless government prioritises public transport, build toll roads, introduce congestion charges and increases higher density living in suburbs close to the Perth CBD. They say Subiaco is the best suburb in Australia because of its proximity to central Perth and its medium and high-density residential development. Town houses and apartments are lacking near the Central Business District.

I have written about this before as I see the madness of capital city development as part of the problem, a problem the Barnett government is making worse by concentrating on Perth, instead of prioritising decentralisation of government departments and agencies and putting incentives in place for businesses to relocate to places like Fremantle, Joondalup, Midland, Armadale, Cockburn, Kwinana, etc.

One of the best solutions to decrease the number of people driving their car to work each morning is to provide them with jobs closer to home, so they can use the bike or walk instead. Fewer people are using the train system because of overcrowding during peak periods and governments are to blame because they have been to slow to react and order more and bigger cars and extend station platforms so they can accommodate longer trains.

City planners want more people to live in high-density buildings near public transport corridors instead of really attacking the problem of the centralisation of work places in the Perth CBD. With all the modern communication and IT technology there is no real reason why big businesses have to have offices only in the CBD and force the workforce to put up with having to travel for many hours a day to get to and from work. I am sure traffic peak hour gridlock creates a less happy and less efficient work force, so why not relocate the office to the outer suburbs and accommodate staff.

Roel Loopers

NO NEED TO FLOG THE DEAD HORSE

Posted in city of fremantle, development by freoview on February 27, 2015

I was very surprised to read the spread about development in Fremantle in the West Australian yesterday as there is nothing new in the article, but for the fact that reporter Kate Emery calls the old railway bridge the Queen Victoria Street bridge. The article is one big PR promo for Fremantle with little substance and I suggest the City sticks to promoting the great things that are actually happening in Fremantle, such as the Hilton and Quest hotels, Atwell Arcade, the Fort Knox Heirloom development, MSC in Cliff Street, other development along Beach and Queen Victoria Street, Knutsford Street, Kim Beazley site, Bathers Beach activation, the probable development of the Woolstores shopping centre, etc.

There is plenty of good news and there is a sense of positive anticipation about the future of Freo in the community, so there is no need for spin and false hopes about Kings Square.

For the time being Kings Square is like flogging a dead horse, even when Sirona Capital refuses to call a three-year delay a delay. With the present office vacancy rate in Perth and many thousands of new square metres of office accommodation becoming available soon, the likelihood that Housing will move to Fremantle is unrealistic. High property prices and rent in Fremantle mean we can’t compete with reduced rents in Perth and West Perth and with the cheaper Midland, Cockburn, Joondalup, etc. That is probably the reason we hear little about the Victoria Quay development because Fremantle Ports might have realised this is the wrong time to release land for development.

When well-managed companies like Atlas Iron are on a deep decline we have to see the signs that a mining resources recovery is still a long way off and there won’t be a big demand for high quality and large space offices.

In a perfect world Sirona should get started on the smaller Spicers site first and leave Kings Square till the time is right for it, to at least restore some confidence in that big CBD development.

The big problem I see with the Transformational Moves document is the reliance on State, Federal and private sector funding, so it is a mere wish list and not based on realistic outcomes and economic reality.

Roel Loopers

KINGS SQUARE PROJECT STALLED AGAIN

Posted in city of fremantle, development, kings square by freoview on February 18, 2015

I just read on the Facebook page of a friend who was involved with  MANY 6160, the former MYER building at Fremantle’s Kings Square, that the retail and design incubator has been given another year to operate. This means that the Kings Square development project by Sirona Capital will now not commence before 2016. That to me is a disaster for the revitalisation of Freo’s CBD!

Roel Loopers

CITY MANAGER DEFAMING THE MESSENGER

Posted in blog, city of fremantle, freo's view, roel loopers by freoview on February 18, 2015

Let’s not mince words here. I am very pissed off by the claim by Tom Griffiths, the City of Fremantle Manager Economic Development and Marketing, who posted a comment on my blog: “I thought it may be worthwhile adding some facts to this discussion although facts seem to be only an occasional and unwelcome visitor to this website and its regularly contributors.” That is an insulting and defamatory statement and contradicts the facts of this blog that was created to have a community forum, support and promote local events and businesses, and scrutinise Fremantle Council.

Take this fact Tom Griffiths. You claim I am incorrect about one post of the last 26 I published on Freo’s View-and even that is debatable, so that suggests I might get it occasionally wrong instead of what you suggest that I am not interesting in reporting facts.

What were my last 26 posts about? Freo CEO on Kings Square, Sunrise at Pt Walter, Barnett’s contempt for Fremantle, Bigger Freo dumped by Barnett, Break a leg at the Roundhouse, Kicked in the guts by giants, how can we handle waste better, why the Giants secrecy, Fascinating music art show at FAC, Fremantle farewells giants,  a very good Freo parking story, Sunday Freo good for you, Growers Green perfect Sunday morning, decentralised retail doing well, when will we learn black is not white, Sculpture at Bathers, National swimmers at Bathers, PTA buses park in streets, Barnett wants councils to pay for his blunder, relax at Princess May Markets, Open water swimming, labor legend died, Freo markets small business incubators, Things are looking up in High Street Mall, Dreamworld of transformational moves, Gian Puppets coming to Freo.

Instead of defaming me and questioning my integrity, fairness and honesty, Mister Tom Griffiths, you should be on your knees and thank me for all the free promotion I give Fremantle. Who else is doing that for our community?

Roel Loopers

FREMANTLE CEO CONFIDENT ABOUT KINGS SQUARE DEVELOPMENT

Posted in city of fremantle, sirona capital by freoview on February 18, 2015

There are some wild rumours flying around about the Fremantle Kings Square development and Sirona Capital. It is best to stick with the facts I believe, so I asked the City of Fremantle to clarify some points.

CEO Graeme Mckenzie told me that, as per Council resolution, the COF has a two year contract with Sirona with a further one-year extension if Sirona can demonstrate it has achieved certain milestones. That two-year period finishes in May this year.

McKenzie said that the City is confident that the project will go ahead, but also pointed out than nobody is going to spend over $ 200 million speculatively, and that it takes time to get tenancies secured that are necessary before construction will take place.

The City’s CEO points out that COF is being informed regularly about the progress through the Strategic Liaison Committee that is required to meet monthly under the contract. Graeme Mckenzie said that he understands the frustration in the community, but that work on the Kings Square project is ongoing and progress is being made.

Sirona’s managing director Matthew McNeilly told me late last year that the Kings Square Project is as large as the Treasury Building Project in Perth and that had taken eight years from implementation to completion.

I think patience is what is called for, although we all like to see this happen much faster to get Fremantle’s economy and retail sector back on track.

Roel Loopers

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