Freo's View

LINLEY LUTTON: INFILL FAILS UNIQUE QUALITIES OF OUR CULTURE

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, Uncategorized by freoview on January 13, 2018

 

I came across an article published in September 2017 in The Conversation  by internationally renowned Perth city planner and architect Linley Lutton, who sadly died this week, and want to share some of Linley’s thoughts with you.

Lutton writes that retrofitting cities is poor planning, justified in the name of sustainability, and that the results are often substandard living environments that show no relationship to local content.

The dispersed city form means we have to work, sleep, shop and socialise in different parts of the city.

High-density living works well where streets are at human scale, buildings  are interesting and where there are plenty of public meeting spaces, but in Australia we build jam-packed home units with minimal public open space, Linley Lutton says.

That is the failure to understand the unique qualities of Australian culture and how people choose to live.

Lutton writes that recent research shows that the great majority of Australians reject apartment living and that the majority of those living in an apartment would not repeat the experience.

It is seriously questionable to randomly subjecting suburbs to high-rise apartments, and so is the public transport corridor argument, or building infill near suburban railway stations.

Public transport only works if people actually use it, but Bureau of Statistics figures show that in Perth less than 10% of those living within walking distance of a train station actually travel to work by train.

Linley Lutton writes that there are three essential requirements of a good city:

  • Cities must nurture and stimulate healthy human growth and community development.
  • Local communities must meaningful participate in city planning.
  • The unique cultural and physical context of a city must be respected.

 

These are all very important points to consider for Fremantle Council for its strategic infill targets and the introduction of buildings that are too high for our human-scale character city!

The funeral of Linley Lutton, a man I greatly respect and like, will be held this Monday January 15 at 3.30 pm at the Karrakatta Cemetery.

 

Roel Loopers

SITE SPECIFIC ARCHITECTURE A MUST FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, Uncategorized by freoview on November 2, 2017

 

There was an interesting article on the property pages of the WEST AUSTRALIAN yesterday by senior architect Carmel van Ruth of the Office of the WA Government Architect about how good design is the foundation of infill development.

Van Ruth argues that urban infill has a significant impact on the public realm and the surrounding communities and needs to deliver improved site-specific outcomes.

I have been concerned for a long time that the importance of site-specific architecture in Fremantle and other character suburbs is something that seems to be lost on most developers and architects/designers, who just want to build something that might look good in Joondalup or Midland, but has no place in Fremantle. That attitude needs to change to guarantee we get outstanding modern Freo-specific architecture in Fremantle.

Innovative solutions will ensure that developers will receive discretionary addition height concessions from councils, van Ruth writes, and I believe Fremantle Council should have stricter rules for discretionary height.

Only really exceptional architecture should receive a reward in height for developers and will make them aware that only excellent design will be a win for the community and for them.

Van Ruth also writes that it requires skilled architects who understand the significance of infill development to get the desired outcomes. I totally agree with her, as the Fremantle example of poor architecture for development proposals is not acceptable.

 

Roel Loopers

EMBRACING GOOD URBAN INFILL

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on October 20, 2017

 

The Perth’s Infill Housing Future report by the Bankwest Curtin Economic Centre has warned that the urban sprawl will create extreme infrastructure costs and traffic congestion.

It concluded that Perth is missing the vital medium-density housing options, and that forces people to live on the fringes, where property is more affordable.

There are many people who want to live closer to the centres but the housing options are not available to them, because the urban infill target of 47 per cent set by the WA government has not been met and is only at 35 per cent.

The report says that local councils play a key role in facilitating medium-density development and to help identify the right areas in the inner suburbs.

While Fremantle is getting substantial medium-density infill east of the CBD, there is not much happening further out, but there are very good opportunities at the Heart of Beaconsfield, Hilton centre, the Knutsford Sreet precinct, and North Fremantle’s McGabe Street.

One issue the report identifies is the NIMBY approach to higher density where locals just don’t want anything above four storeys. I believe it is not only that, but the boring and mediocre quality of architecture that we are getting in Fremantle.

More people would embrace medium to high density I believe, if we got more creative and visually appealing buildings, rather than square boxes with a bit of cladding around them.

 

Roel Loopers

Vote Roel for City Ward!

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FREO FANTASTIC FUTURE FOCUS

Posted in city of fremantle, development, kings square, Uncategorized by freoview on August 31, 2017

 

 

The fence maze at Fremantle’s Kings Square already looks a whole lot better with the promo wording on it.

Also good to see BID putting signs up so people know where to park during the construction, and the City of Fremantle will also put up wayfinding signs in the area.

In this context I sent the letter below to the West Australia in response to an article they published today about the former Subiaco market site:

As a Fremantle resident I find Gareth Parker’s opinion piece on the development plans for the Subiaco Market, and the opposition by its council very interesting.

While 16 storeys for the market site are probably excessive, it is important that councils do find a middle ground to assist urban infill.

In contrast to Subiaco the Fremantle Council has actively promoted Fremantle as a pro development destination over the last eight years. That has now resulted in unprecedented development in our port city for forty years.

The Kings Square Project that starts this month is the biggest development ever seen in Fremantle, and the Woolstores shopping centre site will also soon be developed into a nine storey hotel, student accommodation and commercial spaces.

Not all development we are getting in Freo is outstanding, but at least most of it is in the run down east of the inner city and does not severely impact on the heritage character of the West End.

Fremantle, like Subiaco, had been stagnant for years, our traders are struggling and there are too many shop vacancies, but that will all be turned around through massive development and more people living and working in the CBD, and more tourists being able to stay overnight in new hotels.

Future focussed planning is essential and where Subi Council failed Fremantle Council excelled. There are lessons to be learned here for other councils.

 

Roel Loopers

HOW DESIRABLE IS URBAN INFILL?

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, Uncategorized by freoview on August 30, 2017

 

Fremantle LIV Defence Housing apartment development seen from Quarry Street.

 

There is an interesting article about urban infill in the West Australian today by the president of the Property Council of WA Tanya Trevisan.

Trevisan reports and reflects on a recent collaborative study by the PCA, Curtin University and CODA architects.

The study found that if the state’s infill target was increased from 47 per cent to 60 per cent, WA could save $ 23 billion by 2050.

According to the report supplying infrastructure to greenfield development costs up to three times more than urban infill development.

Tanya Trevisan argues that urban infill, when done well, offers balanced and diversity of housing. She writes that infill creates stronger communities and maximises the effectiveness of existing infill.

There is no doubt for me that the Perth urban sprawl is not sustainable and the Great Australian Dream of one’s own house with front and back garden can’t be sustained in our fast-growing city.

However, due to the mining bust, thousands of people have left the state, and fewer move or migrate to W.A. so our need for extensive residential development is also diminishing for the time being.

There have been serious social issues around the world with high-density living, so not all is good.

I believe there is also the need for new public transport nodes outside the inner character cities, because inner city living is often too expensive for those on lower income, students, etc. Building medium to high density in some outer pockets, where good public transport is provided, is essential as we can’t just stuff our unique centres with large concrete boxes, and destroy their character.

Tomorrow evening at 5.30 there is a Housing Forum at the Moore&Moore cafe in Freo’s Henry Street, so check it out!

 

Roel Loopers

A FREMANTLE TALE OF TWO TRIANGLES AND A SQUARE

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, kings square, Uncategorized by freoview on July 22, 2017

 

There is a bit of ambiguity in this little snippet of the invitation to a Kings Square information session by the FRRAemantle Society.

“The Fremantle Society has from day one expressed concern at the King’s Square Business Plan. That and the flawed King’s Square Urban Design Study by CODA architects have set the parameters for large buildings insensitive to the scale of the historic human scale of Fremantle, the nearby World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison, turning King’s Square into King’s Triangle.” 

It was not the CODA Kings Square Urban Design Study that set the parameters for medium-rise buildings at Kings Square, but Planning Scheme Amendment 49, approved by the Minister in 2012.

PSA 49 identified 13 sites in the Fremantle CBD for high density infill. One site will become the Hilton Doubletree development, the Woolstores shopping centre site is another one, and Kings Square is also one of the PSA 49 sites.

Some of the historic woolstores in Fremantle are well above the “human scale” we constantly hear the Fremantle Society talking about, and the Townhall probably would not have been approved because of its height if FS had had anything to say about it.

The medium-rise Kings Square development will have no impact whatsoever on Fremantle Prison.

The lament about Kings Square being changed into two triangles is tedious, as in 1881 High Street was extended through the square, so two triangles were created then. One triangle belongs to St John’s church, the other triangle is City of Fremantle.

Only in 1960 was High Street closed and the square returned to a square, but the High Street road reserve still exists and St John’s church still own half of the square, realistically making it into two triangles.

Even now some traders in the West End want to reopen High Street through Kings Square to help their struggling businesses, but I hope that will never happen.

High density infill is a State Government requirement, and the near derelict condition of the city east of Kings Square will only benefit from substantial development, that will greatly help improve the retail and hospitality economy in our city.

Nothing is constant in life. The world changes, Fremantle progresses and modernises, and that is a good thing. We don’t live in a museum, but in a living, breathing space full of energy, innovation, change, creativity, and after 40 years of stagnation and hibernation, finally development!

What we need to be far more concerned about than the Kings Square Project and development in the East End is the relentless push by developers to get extra height in the historic West End of the city. That is not acceptable and needs to be stopped!

Roel Loopers

HIGH DENSITY NOT THE SOLUTION

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, development, planning by freoview on February 5, 2017

I have a lot of respect for the opinion of architect and urban planner Dr Linley Lutton, who used to be on the City of Fremantle’s Design Advisory Committee until he resigned from it, so I was very interested to read Lutton’s article about infill and density in the POST community newspapers.

Dr Lutton argues that the WA government push for higher density and infill is not working and is outdated and that apartments are the least preferred living options in Perth. He also writes that apartments can’t be adapted and are not family friendly, but that the biggest housing demand by 2031 will be for families and not singles and couples.

The random erection of ugly and big buildings in town centres also worries the city planner and he writes that it is not true that Perth is more low density than other capital cities. In fact we are at similar levels of density as Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane and not far from that in Melbourne.

While high density is often pushed in older character suburbs it is hard to understand why the WA State Government does not insist on higher density in new suburbs where people are still mainly building one and two storey houses and no apartment blocks or town houses.

The urban myth that people are abandoning their cars is also not supported by facts with tens of thousands abandoning public transport even when they live near public transport, according to government figures.

Linley Lutton says that higher density apartment living can work well, but planners need to take into account that ‘culturally rich street life’ and work opportunities are essential for successful highrise living.

As I and others have often argued the success of city planning and new development is dependent on understanding what the community wants and needs. There is a need for better and more intense collaboration between planning experts and the community, starting as early as possible in the process, so that community opinion is not being dismissed as negative, reactive, NIMBY and anti-development.

I am personally very happy that so much new development is happening in Fremantle and much more planned, but we need to actively discourage ugly, boring, mediocre new buildings ‘designed’ by lazy architects who have no respect for Fremantle’s unique character.

While the urban sprawl is not sustainable the indiscriminate infill targets for older character suburbs also lack reality and need to be reconsidered.

Roel Loopers

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BLUEPRINT FOR INFILL NEEDED IN FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle, development, local government, planning, western australia by freoview on October 31, 2016

The building boom in Fremantle is good for our city I believe but it also requires long-term strategic planning and a blueprint for where in Fremantle infill should be considered in the next 25 years.

Just doing small planning scheme amendments for a few streets and masterplans for other areas is not good city planning, so the City of Fremantle should do a comprehensive study on where the appropriate locations for medium and high density in Fremantle are.

Developers, investors and home owners should be able to access City of Fremantle information that will show them that a certain street or suburb is earmarked for higher density so they don’t get a nasty shock surprise just after they have purchased property that a six-storey building or even higher could be built next to their two- storey home(s).

It would also assist the Public Transport Authority and other State Government agencies to plan ahead instead of the slow reactive planning that is happening too often.

While it is good to have masterplans for specific areas I believe it is essential to have an infill masterplan blueprint for the entire city, as only that is well-considered and detailed long-term planning.

Fremantle has many good potential development areas just outside the CBD that need to be considered for residential development, because inner city living has become unaffordable for many people. A tiny new one-bedroom apartment in the city centre starts at half a million dollars, so hopefully locations a fifteen-minute bike ride away from the CBD will be cheaper and more affordable to people on lower incomes.

Accommodation for students, artists, pensioners, low-wage earners, etc. need to be part of the residential mix in Fremantle or we might develop into a yuppy city for the well-off only. That would not be very Freo at all!

Roel Loopers

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FREO NEEDS FORUMS ON URBAN INFILL

I like the idea of the Future Bayswater organisers to hold a Speakers Series about urban infill and density and it is something the City of Fremantle and/or Fremantle Network should consider doing without bias and with a wide variety of opinions, not just the green one.

There is little use in playing the blame game and dividing communities when talking about inevitable urban infill and higher density and it will always get some form of NIMBY opposition.

Most reasonable people accept that the urban sprawl of Perth is not sustainable, but local and state governments need to be very careful to not destroy the unique character of older cities. Good sensitive infill and medium density in carefully selected pockets of Fremantle will be very good and might also help create badly needed affordable student accommodation just a 15-minute bike ride from the CBD.

At a recent forum of Future Bayswater Committee for Perth chair Marion Fulker expressed that heritage was often used as an excuse against infill, but I don’t agree with her. Heritage protection here is Fremantle and elsewhere has to be paramount and an absolute priority! That is not difficult to accommodate as there are many under developed areas just on the outskirts of the inner city where substantial residential development will help increase the amenity instead of damaging it.

That is the conversation we need to have in Freo so let’s get organise some forums. Good leadership is taking the community with you when implementing change!

Roel Loopers

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COMMUNITY A PRIORITY FOR NEW CITY DEVELOPMENT

Two interesting articles about city development in the West Australian property section drew my attention this morning.

The first one “Giving residents first priority” is something I have been calling for for many years, as I believe proper community consultation about new development at the earliest possible stage will take a lot of negativity out of the process, and does not force community groups to be reactive when it is often too late, and subsequently being branded as nay-sayers.

The West reports that RobertsDay‘s studio leader Duane Cole said “Developers tapping into  a community’s values and culture should start with genuine collaboration to build trust.”

Duane Cole told the West “…residents needed to be first in the process, not an afterthought.” and I could not agree more with that sentiment.

I do realise that Councils and developers might be reluctant to take this on as often the NIMBY attitude makes collaboration with the community difficult and frustrating, but building resentment by ignoring the wishes of the community is definitely not the way to go.

The second article is by Dr. Anthony Duckworth-Smith of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre in Perth who writes that AUDR has been working with the City of Fremantle to explore ways of finding the right balance for infill.

Duckworth Smith writes in the West that if Fremantle wants to keep its diverse social mix it should be looking at building smaller homes in suburban areas, because in the past two decades the vast majority of new homes in Fremante were four or more bedrooms, although households have become smaller and more diverse.

He warns however that the suitability for small houses is limited and does not cater for those who want to own. a house.

Modified local planning and design guide lines that respect the character of suburban areas could be developed to achieve urban infill the community accepts.

The City of Fremantle is willing to lead to find solutions to fill the gap between single residential and high density apartment buildings, Duckworth-Smith writes.

I believe that good infill in suitable targeted areas is the way forward, not just random infill and higher density because a property becomes available for development. That requires long-term planning and a vision for the ‘burbs’.

It has become quite clear that especially in older character suburbs many residents are against substantial change, infill, high density and medium and high rise buildings. That does not make the task for local and state government any easier. Some people believe the urban sprawl is inevitable to continue the great Australian dream of owning a large house with front and back garden, even when we have limited water supplies and urban sprawl is very expensive because it requires ever expanding roads, rail, power, water and gas to suburbs many tens of kilometres away from the CBD. This of course also causes traffic nightmares during peak hours.

Like with most things in life there are no easy solutions that will please and satisfy everyone, but I believe tough decisions have to be made now because future generations will suffer from the lack of foresight and leadership of our state and local governments.

Roel Loopers

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