Freo's View

LET’S TALK FREO UP!

 

Those people who constantly hammer Fremantle Council with criticism about vacant shops, homeless people, anti social behaviour and crime would do well to pay attention to recent media reports.

Shops, cafes and restaurants in Mount Lawley along once extremely popular Beaufort Street are closing in large numbers and they blame high rents and a drop in foot traffic for that.

The decline in retail is happening all over metropolitan Perth, Australia and the world as the traditional high street shopping destinations have been replaced with huge suburban shopping centres on the outskirts.

Media reports about excessive shop lifting and anti social behaviour in Cockburn, Rockingham, Canning, etc have become common, and the West Australian dedicated two pages of their weekend edition on the issues of homelessness in the Perth CBD.

There are no easy solutions for any of these problems and the call from traders for councils to demand that property owners charge lower rents is as unrealistic as it would be unlawful. Governments can not dictate what rents property owners can charge and while high rents in the present retail climate appear almost indecent and selfish there is very little local or state governments can do about it.

Some owners are better and allow pop-up shops to fill vacant shops, but only for a very limited time, so that is only a short-term ‘solution’.

Crime and anti social  behaviour are State responsibility and while Fremantle and most councils do have their own very good security officers they are often powerless as they do not have the right to issue move-on notices or arrest people.

There is no doubt though that the perception of not feeling safe will keep people away. Foot traffic numbers in the Cappuccino Strip have dropped dramatically while they have increased quite a bit in High Street in the West End. The latter is probably mainly due to Notre Dame University students pounding the pavement.

It is always strange to notice on busy Freo weekends how many people are walking along South Terrace but when I turn into High Street the street is nearly void of pedestrians.  Visitors seem to prefer Collie and Essex streets for their East West movement and ignore the far more attractive historic High Street.  Why is that, I wonder?

A prominent Freo business owner urged me last week to promote that we collectively stop talking our city down and that we have to start telling ourselves and our visitors how special Fremantle is.

Only yesterday at the Roundhouse two German tourists told me how much they liked Freo and how friendly people here are, and the volunteer guides hear those kind of remarks very often. We receive so much positive feedback from overseas and interstate visitors that it is hard to believe that some Fremantle residents and traders here have such a negative opinion about our gorgeous little city.

Freo is a great place but like most other suburbs has similar problems and struggles with the retail economy,  anti social behaviour and crime. Attracting more visitors to Freo will partly help with that, and that can only be achieved by not talking our city down, but by talking it up. Let’s give it a try!

Roel Loopers

 

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