08/01/2002 - 21:00

Developers struggle to get the mix right

08/01/2002 - 21:00

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A RULING by Liquor Licensing director Hugh Highman has stymied plans for an indoor and outdoor bar area within the Old Swan Brewery development.

A RULING by Liquor Licensing director Hugh Highman has stymied plans for an indoor and outdoor bar area within the Old Swan Brewery development.

The ruling, which followed pressure from residents within the development, has dramatically reduced the area where patrons can consume alcohol without meals.

However, the ruling is more than just a blow for the restaurant owner, OSB Operations. It highlights the serious difficulties for developers intent on combining commercial and residential uses.

Businessman Ron Woss was asked to head up a residents’ committee following concerns about the level of noise emanating from the restaurants in the development.

“When we went into the place and bought various apartments, at that stage the plan showed six restaurants, so it’s fair to say people expected six restaurants,” Mr Woss said.

“Then five out of the six (restaurants) were collapsed into one.

“None of the residents is opposed to restaurants.

“We don’t want to have a war. We just want them to trade as fine restaurants and we’ll be good patrons of the place because we think it’s is a good mixed development.”

The residents of the Old Swan Brewery maintain it’s the nature of the commercial activity in the restaurants that has spoilt the ambiance of the development for residents.

However, there are difficulties in combining residential with uses like hospitality, which is an industry that reaches its peak outside of normal business hours.

In a relatively quiet city like Perth, many residents are accustomed to leaving the sounds and smells of the city far behind them when they shut the front door.

Time Cont Sheffield director Paul Conti maintains difficulties with mixed use developments from the residential perspective often result from unrealistic expectations.

As the baby boomers look to downsize, the shift from a quarter acre block in the suburbs to a contemporary development such as Subi Centro or East Perth will entail an adjustment to more than just a new address.

Mr Conti is convinced that only low key activity is suitable for combined residential developments.

“Retail activity still belongs on the street,” Mr Conti said.

“You’ve got to be careful how you mix it.

“Luxury apartments don’t really work with office or retail and I think when you’re talking about luxury apartments people want to have their own building.

“And it normally attracts conservatives, and they don’t really go for mixed use.”

And it’s not just the Old Swan Brewery that has struck difficulties. The apartments near Lamonts and the Holmes a Court Gallery also are exposed to considerable noise pollution.

“When you’re near water it doesn’t matter how quiet you are. Over water it creates disturbance and noise,” Mr Conti said.

Creating urban villages and developments with a mix of different land uses, including residential, retail and commercial, injects life and vitality into what conceivably could be dull, sterile residential areas

And the spin-off benefits for residents in mixed-use developments include greater security and heightened sense of community.

The details of both mixed-use urban villages and mixed-use developments need to be carefully considered.

Whelans manager town planning Vernon Butterly said the main thing to bear in mind was buffering noise.

He claims mixed-use developments work well for people who already have lived in the area and who have an understanding of the level of activity over the whole day.

“I think there’ll be a number of problems in the future, particularly as the baby boomers move into smaller properties,” Mr Butterly said.

There also are several title issues the councils are only just starting to address, including strata titles that include residential and commercial activities.

The Old Swan Brewery was developed by Multiplex, and general manager Multiplex Asset Management Jon Smeulders said the mixed use nature of the site was a major selling point for the residential apartments.

“I think people do see the positives (of mixed-use developments) within the bounds of reasonableness,” Mr Smeulders said.

“They want the convenience of being part of a diverse community but they also expect, especially when they’ve forked out a lot of money, complete and utter privacy.

“I think the majority (of residents) do recognise the tremendous vibrancy in a development of this nature.”

The redevelopment of the old Swan Brewery presented a number of design challenges due to the heritage nature of the building.

Multiplex has been involved with a number of mixed use developments across the country and the larger cities on the east coast are probably a little ahead of Perth in some respects.

“I think it will take a little more time for Perth people to embrace mixed-use living because we’ve been spoilt with access to the breach and the river,” Mr Smeulders said

“Everyone wants the best of every world.”

Maurice Brockwell from OSB Opertaions, the owner of the restaurant in the Old Swan Brewery, is away on leave and was unavailable for comment.

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