I am delighted to see scaffolding up and work underway at two of Fremantle’s major heritage sites. At the Married Quarters cottages at Cantonment Hill one can already see some progress, while not much can be seen yet at the Warders Cottages in Henderson Street.
I don’t know what the truth is on the repair status of the Henderson Street cottages with workers telling people they are doing the whole lot, but people in the community saying it is just about repairing the walls and maybe roofs. The scaffolding looks pretty serious so let’s hope the government has found some more money to make substantial renovations there.
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.
It’s time to protest loud and clear that the state of disrepair of our heritage buildings is an unacceptable disgrace that shows little respect for Western Australia’s history. Tokenism is the word of the day when it comes to the care of heritage buildings with the State Government barely doing enough to keep the Warders Cottages in Fremantle standing.
Tomorrow-Thursday-morning East Fremantle and Fremantle Councillors and irate residents together with Member for Fremantle Simone McGurk will meet in front of Parliament House to meet the media at 9.10 am. Let’s make it a crowd and shout out loud that we care about our history and heritage!!
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?
Fremantle MP Simone McGurk has started a petition to make sure the heritage-listed Royal George Hotel in East Fremantle is not handed over by State Government to private developers without the guarantee that the heritage of the building will be respected.
The old hotel in Duke street has been under the ‘care’ of the National Trust for many years, who have badly neglected the building whilst promising renovations and occupancy which never eventuated.
Heritage conservation in Western Australia is unacceptable and needs to be addressed by our political parties, because allowing the unique buildings to rot away and to eventually be demolished is unacceptable. History is the roots of our society and needs to be respected and cared for.
Contact Simone McGurk’s office on: Fremantle@mp.wa.gov.au or call by her office in Market Street to get copies of the petition.
It is interesting to note that the stabilisation work on the Fremantle Warders Cottages did not start with those closest to the Fremantle Markets, that are most in the eye of tourists.
The photo shot from the Queensgate carpark roof shows how significant these historic cottages are in the centre of Fremantle and how important it is to get them renovated and occupied as soon as possible.
Neglected heritage buildings in Western Australia are in the lime light again with State Government intending to sell off the Royal George Hotel in East Fremantle and the Warders Cottages in Fremantle.
There always appears to be enough money for anything else but when it comes to looking after our historic buildings the government dismally fails.
The National Trust has taken far too many buildings on and can’t get the funding to do up every building they have in their custodianship. It is quite hypocritical for the Trust’s CEO Tom Perrigo to express concern about the way the City of Fremantle is renovating the former Boys School at Princess May Park, when his own orgnisation is responsible for demolition by neglect situations.
Is private ownership or long-term leasing of heritage the only way out of the limbo or are there other options? It was suggested in a comment to this blog that the City of Fremantle should renovate and move staff to heritage buildings instead of building a new civic centre. Cost comparison would be interesting because heritage repairs are always much more expensive.
Sunset Events has committed to spending over a million dollars to renovate and move into the Artillery Drill Hall that was home of the Fly by Night Club for many years, money the National Trust obviously did not have, so that a good compromise as long as the renovations are done with respect for the history of the building.
Handing over heritage buildings to private developers is dangerous as they always push the envelope and want more than is allowed in planning and heritage schemes. With local and state governments keen to get things going the likelihood of compromise is a bit too tempting for my liking. Maybe crowd sourcing could create a substantial fund to upkeep our heritage?
The Fremantle Herald reports today that the W.A. government wants to sell the historic Royal George Hotel in Duke Street, East Fremantle, after the National Trust allowed it to fall into disrepair as it failed to find funding to repair it and get tenants for the heritage-listed building.
National Trust CEO Tom Perigo was alway a bit too over-confident that he would just have to ask and Lotterywest would give him the millions he needed to repair all the buildings the government agency took on, but reality was far different. I hear Perigo has now vacated the CEO job and has been appointed a consultant to the National Trust.
The George Street area is very gorgeous and the old hotel is a real feature there that deserves much better than the neglect and vandalism it has received. Time will tell if a private operator will look after the building well enough and make parts of it open to the public.
At the Transformational Moves information session at the City of Fremantle last night, Mayor Brad Pettitt announced that recent talks with State Government had confirmed the government is still committed to moving a government department to Fremantle and that it would be finalised in 3-4 months.
The Department of Housing was said to move to Freo a few years ago by then Minister Troy Buswell but that never eventuated. With the very high office vacancy rate in Perth I believe skepticism is more appropriate than optimism in this regard and I hope the Kings Square development will move on without waiting and hoping for a State Government office lease there.
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.