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EPRA redefines its development role

EAST Perth’s Urban Village has been returned to the control of the city council and the State Government following a special ceremony in Northbridge this week

The East Perth Redevelopment Authority has relinquished responsibility for 75 per cent of the original East Perth site, leading to claims it faces an uncertain future. But the authority is looking to projects beyond East Perth, with major works planned for Northbridge and the Causeway at the east end of the city.

The self-funding redevelopment authority generated revenue of $9.8 million last year down from $10.1 million in the previous year, and the EPRA is looking to redefine its role within the city, with work just beginning on Village Northbridge and the Eastern Gateway.

“This is the first land to be handed back, land could be normalised every 12 months,” EPRA chief executive officer Tony Morgan said.

EPRA was originally created by the Lawrence Labor Government to oversee the redevelopment of East Perth, a major project involving blighted industrial land with serious pollution issues.

With the lights turned on and burning bright in East Perth, the redevelopment authority has been forced to look to other opportunities around the city to survive.

The new Eastern Gateway project extends 30 hectares to the south of the original East Perth site, while Village Northbridge adds 27ha.

It is estimated the new projects will extend the lifespan of the EPRA by up to a decade.

“There’s no talk of EPRA closing, we feel there’s a very clear future direction,” Mr Morgan said.

“What underpins EPRA is the triple bottom line. We’re not just chasing a financial outcome, it’s also a social and environmental outcome.”

EPRA is working hard to develop a new image for the Village Northbridge project, carefully distancing the authority from the East Perth identity, preferring to use the acronym EPRA.

“We really want to generalise the name, it’s important to the Northbridge people,” Mr Morgan said.

EPRA is keenly aware of the aesthetic impact of East Perth and is working hard to assure the residents of Northbridge that the Village Northbridge will be based on the community’s cultural roots.

“We made a decision to make sure there was a clear understanding of the cultural heritage opportunities,” Mr Morgan said.

The transformation of East Perth from a degraded industrial site to one of Perth’s most illustrious residential addresses has not been without its critics.

While the riverfront lots in East Perth afforded spectacular views, they came with multi-million dollar price tags.

Affordable housing, therefore, was not a big feature of East Perth and EPRA has been criticised for failing to ensure a mix of residential designs.

“What we tried to do was make some range of housing types, from expensive river front lots to bed-sits,” Mr Morgan said.

The Village Northbridge development has allocated between 10 and 13 per cent of the residential development for a mix of affordable housing, special needs housing and public housing.

The Perth Inner City Housing Association is currently in negotiations regarding an affordable housing site in Newcastle Street.

If the talks are successful, construction on a purpose-built lodge house with between 28 and 35 rooms will begin.

And on the same site, but separate to the lodge, a complex of about eight affordable housing units is under development.

The site opposite Centre Ford, behind the Aberdeen Hotel, is currently earmarked for a 500-lot car park, however the $3 million housing development would sit in front of the car park on the street.

Inner City Housing Association executive officer Hans Gerritsen said the development was targeting the working people in the city.

“These people have to come into the city to work but they can’t afford to live there,” Mr Gerritsen said.

“They are probably on between $35,000 and $38,000 a year and for the rent (you pay) way out in the suburbs you can have an apartment in the city.”

The Urban Development Institute of Australia executive director, Judy Carr, said EPRA played an important role that could not be easily taken up by the private sector.

“It’s a huge financial commitment and they (EPRA) don’t get any return for a number of years,” Ms Carr said.

“It’s a huge coordination of a large number of government agencies, particularly East Perth, which dealt with a number of issues, including heritage and the environment.”

“EPRA is quite fortunate in that it has its own act of parliament. Like all developments they try to work to that, but not everything goes as planned.

“They have to work with the community, but the community sometimes has strange expectations.”

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