No panic Freo, the Kings Square blog this morning was an April Fools, but rewarding to receive a slightly worried SMS from Sirona Capital managing director Matthew McNeilly asking if it was an April Fools.
Also fake news was the didgeridoo story and unfortunately the one about J Shed as well.
Great April Fools also from Freo Sea Rescue who claimed the traffic bridge would become a toll bridge for boats passing underneath it, to pay for repairs.
So welcome to April, one of my favourite months because it has the Fremantle International Street Arts Festival and ANZAC Day.
The announcement at a function on Friday night by new Western Australian Treasurer Ben Wyatt that the state government will not go ahead with the relocation of government departments because of the financial implications is very worrying for Fremantle and should send alarm bells ringing at the City of Fremantle.
Wyatt said that he had to make substantial savings to fix the budget and that the state unfortunately does not have the money for expensive relocations. The new government was in favour of the decentralisation of the workforce away from the Perth CBD but it would be better to reduce public servant staff numbers through early redundancy, increase efficiency and productivity, and reduce duplications of services, creating smaller offices, as the state could not afford the very costly relocation of departments in the near future because of the dire financial state of Western Australia.
The move of Department of Housing and other departments to Fremantle is essential for the success of the Fremantle Kings Square project and if this is cancelled or substantially delayed by the new Labor government it will have a huge negative impact for Fremantle.
The question is if Sirona Capital can afford to go ahead with the project if the lease with state government departments is ripped up, or could this be the end of Freo’s big dream of economic recovery through the biggest inner city project in many decades?
This is very worrying news at the start of the month where the demolition of the Queensgate building was due to start. I for one hope the exciting Kings Square project will progress as planned and that solutions will be found fast if Wyatt’s assertions are correct.
Many in the Fremantle community have questioned the need for a new expensive Civic Centre at Kings Square and no doubt they would be delighted if the project did not go ahead, but I believe it would be very disappointing if our city square is not modernised and activated.
The continuing delay of the development of the Hilton Doubletree hotel on the Fremantle Point Street carpark site and the delay of settlement of the Spicer site at Henderson Street raises questions about the contracts the City of Fremantle signs with developers.
It is nice to have a clause in the Hilton sales contract that stipulates the City can buy back the site if development does not happen within a certain period, but it is totally useless as Fremantle is not in a financial position to buy back the Point Street property, and anyway, what to do with it then?
The delay of the Kings Square project meant that valuable revenue from the Queensgate carpark was lost to the COF and the delay of settlement with Sirona Capital of the Spicer property also means that Fremantle will have to wait till they get paid for it, when the City’s coffers are very empty.
Would it not be better to include penalties for delays, let’s say $ 10,000 per week, as that would be a clear message that Fremantle wants and needs development now and not sometime down the track when the Hilton developers have built three other hotels in Perth first.
Money is a great incentive to get things done fast and buy-back clauses are unrealistic when the City of Fremantle does not have the money for it.
Sirona Capital has requested that the settlement with the City of Fremantle of the sale of the Spicer site on the corner of William and Henderson streets will be delayed for 12 months to May 9, 2018.
The site was sold to Sirona for $ 6.65 million and according to expert advise the market value of the property has remained the same.
The Spicer site development is part of the Kings Square Project where Sirona develops the former Myer and Queensgate buildings, build a new Civic Centre and develop the Spicer site with a five-storey building.
It would probably be a big task for any developer to do all that development in the same area at the same time, so Council will probably approve the settlement delay at Wednesday’s full Council meeting.
Above another historic photo taken from the top of the Townhall that shows the Kings Square and Fremantle Oval Project development areas, and of course the Henderson Street Courthouse/Police precinct will also be developed by Silverleaf.
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.
Two big new developments in the Fremantle CBD are not far from reality. My ears are always on the ground and my eyes on the ball to pick up interesting news on the Freo grapevine and this news is huge!
It hear the derelict woolstores building opposite Clancy’s could be developed in the not too far distance. My informants tell me that Sirona Capital has shown interest in developing the heritage-listed building opposite Princess May Park that is owned by Marilyn New, the former owner of the Esplanade Hotel.
This eyesore has been an embarrassment for decades for Fremantle residents and businesses and a very ugly welcome sign for cruise ship passengers, so it would be great to see it developed and the building occupied again.
There will be a meeting about the plans at Hotel Australia next week, but I doubt it will be a public meeting.
In other news I hear that Freo developers Silverleaf have submitted their proposal to the City of Fremantle for a mixed development on the Woolstores shopping centre site at Cantonment Street.
The initial plans were not very good I have been told and the developers got frustrated having to change them several times while working with CoF planning officers and the Design Advisory Committee, but one elected member told me that the submitted plans “look surprisingly good.”
Planning Scheme Amendment 49 for that specific location allows for up to 11 storeys, if my memory is correct, so expect the proposal to be for a very large and high development.
My understanding is that the development will happen in two stages and that it involves a hotel, commercial and residential floor space and ground-level retail, so stay tuned.
The development of these two major sites in the East CBD is huge, especially in context of the planned and approved Hilton Doubletree, Spotlight and former Energy Museum sites developments.
The modernisation of that part of the inner city that is known as ‘Little Beirut’ will greatly enhance Fremantle’s tourism and retail potential and is another significant step forward to a prosperous future for our city.
Claims by the Fremantle Society that the City of Fremantle is insolvent were strongly rejected as ridiculous by Deputy Mayor Dave Coggin at the Ordinary Council meeting on Wednesday. Coggin demanded that the Society would send him the report by the certified public accountant they claim had provided the Fremantle Society with the advise that the City was technically insolvent.
Another ridiculous claim by the Fremantle Society was the lack of community consultation on the Kings Square Project.
I don’t know where these people were when Planning Scheme Amendment 49 was debated and the Fremantle Society under my presidency had a scale model in shopping centres to show the proposed heights, which we rejected and wanted lowered, but we did not succeed.
There was also extensive community consultation on the Kings Square development and even a Citizen Jury which I addressed on behalf of the Society, and I went to all the other community meetings to make suggestions. One outcome of that was that Newman Court now no longer will have vehicular access and parking.
Also ridiculous is the expectation that a private developer like Sirona Capital would make the roof tops of the two new buildings accessible to the public. Who is going to pay for security and public liability and how many privately owned buildings in the Perth CBD have public roof top access?
More ridiculousness in the claim that Fremantle Council has a conflict of interest in recommending to JDAP approval for the two Kings Square buildings. The City is not the decision-making authority, and as Councillor Doug Thompson pointed out as a body Council cannot have a conflict of interest or perception of that, but individual Councillors need to make their own decision if they believe they do have a conflict of or financial interest, which none of them declared.
Saying that Council cannot debate the development of a property they have sold would mean for example Council could not make planning approval for the Hilton Doubletree hotel development on the Point Street carpark site the City sold.
Councillor Rachel Pemberton said Sirona Capital was very serious about creating the best possible outcome and had even instigated workshops to improve the building design and enhance the character of the inner city. High calibre people from all sections of the community had attended the Sirona workshops and we will get an outcome we all will be proud of, Pemberton said.
Planning officers told Council and the public gallery that the developers had made significant changes over the last three months in collaboration with the Design Advisory Committee and the DAC now believed the design was at a stage where it was acceptable for them to recommend approval, but more changes would be required and be part of the City’s recommendation to JDAP.
Ordinary Council of the City of Fremantle will this evening debate the design of the Kings Square project buildings and if it should recommend approval to the State’s Joint Development Assessment Panel, which is the decision-making authority for the development.
Most important for me here are the comments by the City’s Design Advisory Committee, and they have several issues with some details of the proposal.
While the DAC says they are overall in support of the proposal and opportunities this brings to the retail core of the city centre, they believe that improvements can and should be made, so I suggest Council defers the matter until the architects have made the changes the DAC has suggested.
The DAC clearly states that the design is at a stage where the committee cannot recommend support or not for the proposal and they need to get more refined and detailed plans before making a recommendation.
I support the Kings Square project but it is such a huge and significant development for Fremantle that we need to get this right and every detail is fine-tuned before Council should recommend approval.
The height is within Planning Scheme Amendment 49, so not much use arguing about that now, but for the developers to show a night shot with lots of people on the roof is bad and unnecessary spin, since this is an office building that will not be occupied after office hours, but for maybe a couple of office parties each year.
Let’s stick with the facts, and that for me this is the most essential development project for Fremantle in its aim for economic recovery. Let’s do it well and make it a new attractive feature for our city!
Ordinary Council of the City of Fremantle will on Wednesday evening debate the design of the Myer and Queensgate buildings that will start the Kings Square development.
The planning authority for the buildings is the WA Joint Assessment Panel, not CoF, but Councillors will send a recommendation to JDAP, so it is important still for the community to have their say on it.
I like it that the initial design has evolved and the buildings are now separated through a shopping mall between them that will go from Newman Court through to William Street. For security reasons there will be gates on either end so it will not be accessible to the public, and anti-social elements, after hours.
There is also a five cinema complex part of the development and plans for bars, restaurants and cafes to make Kings Square a 24/7 destination.
The new Civic building will also be built at the same time and should be ready to move in by the start of 2020 if all goes to plan.
I support the development of Kings Square as I believe it is essential for the economic recovery of Fremantle, so bring it on asap!
You can view the plans and proposal on the City of Fremantle website. Click on Minutes and Agendas on the top left of the page and download the agenda.
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!!!