07/04/2011 - 00:00

Freo caught between growth and identity

07/04/2011 - 00:00


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FREMANTLE needs to take action to make the city a more attractive prospect for private and government investment, a report by the Property Council of Australia and consulting firm Urbis has found.

FREMANTLE needs to take action to make the city a more attractive prospect for private and government investment, a report by the Property Council of Australia and consulting firm Urbis has found.

Traditionally the unrivalled twin city to Perth and the primary cultural and entertainment hub, Fremantle is being eclipsed by emerging centres such as Stirling, Joondalup and Midland, according to the report.

The ‘Drivers of Activity Centre Development in the Fremantle CBD – Fremantle’s position in the metropolitan hierarchy’ report offered solutions to attract more residents and increase office and retail floor space by 2015.

Property Council deputy executive director Lino Iacomella and director of Urbis Ray Haeren presented the report’s findings at a recent Fremantle Leader’s Luncheon.

Mr Iacomella said fragmented land ownership and limited building height made Fremantle a risky proposition for development.

“Fremantle was traditionally seen as the second city to Perth CBD, now Fremantle is considered an important suburb, but nevertheless that’s the drift that’s happened,” he said.

The report acknowledged the City of Fremantle’s ambition to be a primary centre under the WA Planning Commission’s Directions 2031 document, which looks at areas of Perth for priority development.

“The challenge for Fremantle is to become a primary centre if they want to take advantage of infrastructure investment,” Mr Iacomella said.

To position Fremantle as a ‘primary centre’, the report recommended the city develop a CBD-wide strategy plan, which would identify strategic development areas, outline floor space and dwelling targets and note key sites for major offices and government agencies.

The City of Fremantle made a submission to the state government in September to relocate a government agency to its 5,000 square metre development site on the corner of Point Street and Adelaide Street in Fremantle.

City of Fremantle CEO Graeme Mackenzie said the council was pushing for a government agency to move into the proposed site, which would subsequently become a commercial development.

“Having a government agency here will bring in office workers, which are vital for the local economy. The focus for us is building both a commercial and residential base,” he said.

Mr Mackenzie also highlighted the importance of boosting inner-city dwellings, with only 800 residents currently living in Fremantle’s CBD.

“An increase in the population in the CBD will support retail and will also provide a level of security after hours that you don’t get with a smaller number of people,” Mr Mackenzie told WA Business News.

Fremantle rated highly with regard to public transport, street amenities and cultural identity, but poorly in relation to council and community attitudes towards development, flexibility of planning framework and low private investment.

Urbis’s Ray Haeren said most Fremantle office space was ‘lower end’ with 65,000sqm of vacant floor space compared to 12,000sqm in the Perth CBD.

“Fremantle doesn’t offer the contemporary space that major employers look for and even with government now; their criteria is quite specific and there are very few options available in Fremantle,” he said.

Mr Haeren also said the Fremantle community was heavily dominated by ‘nay sayers’ who didn’t want change.

“There is the perception that Fremantle is trying to put a moat around itself. No-one can afford to live on the grand memories of the past and let’s face it, a lot of the growth is happening a fair distance away from Fremantle,” he said.

Mr Mackenzie emphasised that he did not want Fremantle to lose its identity.

“I want Fremantle to be Fremantle, but what we want is to have the types of densities and development that you find in Joondalup and Stirling,” Mr Mackenzie said.

Stirling has undertaken a major transformation, which includes the proposed $300 million expansion of Westfield Innaloo and a 15-year commitment to provide office space for government agencies.

Meanwhile, Midland is undergoing a multi-million dollar redevelopment, which includes a $360 million hospital, the redevelopment of its heritage-listed railway workshops and new housing estates.

Joondalup has been attracting significant investment and is home to major institutions such as the WA Police Academy, Edith Cowan University and the Joondalup Health campus, which is currently undergoing a $317 million expansion.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesperson Peter Nolin said it was time for the council to take action and change Fremantle’s ‘unfriendly’ image.

“Since the America’s Cup Fremantle has been going backwards, so we’re going to have to stand up to the nay sayers who don’t want to see these changes happen,” Mr Nolin said.



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