13/05/2010 - 00:00

City moves to reopen forgotten space

13/05/2010 - 00:00

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THE City of Perth is poised to inject new life into the Hay and Murray street malls by launching a strategy to re-utilise forgotten upper level space.

City moves to reopen forgotten space

THE City of Perth is poised to inject new life into the Hay and Murray street malls by launching a strategy to re-utilise forgotten upper level space.

Part two of the City of Perth’s ‘Forgotten Spaces’ strategy, due to be released by the end of June, is a feasibility study on how to create value out of vacant upper level space.

Research by property analysts RP Data showed that, last November, at least 30 full floors were either vacant, being used for storage or in various states of disrepair in the Hay Street and Murray Street malls.

A priority of the study is to identify ways of providing incentives for building owners to make use of wasted space by: converting it to commercial office space; residential developments, including student accommodation; artists studios; or retail shops and hospitality venues.

Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said the study would identify barriers to re-opening the spaces, and would also identify a demonstration project.

Ms Scaffidi said a lot of upper-level spaces were vacant because there was no perceived economic advantage to the building owners in activating them, when compared to ground-floor space with street access.

City-based architects Cameron Chisolm Nicol director, Dominic Snellgrove, told WA Business News there was potential for not only commercial and office uses in the upper levels, but for residential purposes as well.

Cameron Chisolm Nicol completed a $6 million refurbishment at the Hay Street Mall’s Sheffield House in 2007.

“We wanted consciously to demonstrate how upper level, underutilised, inactive space could be reinhabited, re-used and restored back to some kind of legitimate use, both from a qualitative point of view and an economic point of view,” Mr Snellgrove said.

“I think people are genuinely unaware of the amenity that’s offered in the upper levels, and I think in the past, from a commercial point of view, or even from a residential point of view, people have been concerned about the difficulty achieving car parking and service vehicle access.”

Mr Snellgrove said a crucial contributing aspect to the success of the refurbishment of Sheffield House was the architecture firm agreeing to take on the top floor lease.

“We leased it before the project went ahead, so we gave the developer the confidence to do the project,” Mr Snellgrove said.

“Having done that they very quickly leased the floor below us to a government department at a very strong commercial rate, and again level one was leased to further tenants so the building was fully leased very quickly.”

One of the major difficulties experienced refurbishing Sheffield House, Mr Snellgrove said, was to visualise the potential of the under-used space.

“It was very difficult standing in here before and trying to convince people that it could be what it is now,” he said.

Another city-based architect to have refurbished a previously vacant CBD building is Sandover Pinder, which is based in the Cremorne Arcade buildings in Hay Street.

Sandover Pinder managing director David Karotkin said there was a range of benefits for the city and its stakeholders in re-opening upper-level space.

“The benefits for the city are significant, because if you can get more activity happening at different times in places like the mall, you improve safety and you get that vibrancy and life,” he said.

“This is where I think the city might be able to help developers, where in the mall there are some significant cost issues.”

But Mr Karotkin said gaining access to buildings for construction was a significant barrier to refurbishing vacant upper-level space.

“Certainly as far as office space goes, it’s great space, particularly in the creative industries,” he said.

“But in the malls, access is a real issue because you can’t just park skip bins out the front for months while people do fit-outs upstairs because there are shopkeepers on the ground floor paying an absolute fortune in rent.”

 

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