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Freo rides a new wave of development

After a decade of little to no growth, Western Australia’s unique port city, Fremantle, has become the darling of developers and is poised to strengthen its position as an alternative regional centre to Perth. Tracey Cook reports.

 

NOT since the America’s Cup of 1987 has Fremantle been the focus of such wide-scale redevelopment.

And, as was the case for the America’s Cup, much of the development has been driven by substantial State Government investment, including such projects as the Leighton Urban Village and the $100 million Fremantle Waterfront Commercial Precinct. 

But private and public development companies have also been lured into the city and are drawing up multi-million dollar proposals.

A pro-active approach on behalf of the City of Fremantle has spurred on its vision of realigning the city as a commercial and corporate location.  Keen to take advantage of current development interest, a comprehensive redevelopment of Fremantle’s civic centre is on the cards. The City of Fremantle has started discussions with various stakeholders to redevelop its council offices, the Queensgate Building and nearby council-owned land. There also are plans to develop the Myer building into a commercial and retail hub.

Other pivotal Fremantle locations are being selected for conversion into retail/commercial developments.  Property developer Luke Saraceni is in the midst of negotiations to transform the Ross’s Hardware site, while private investment group Silverleaf Investments is planning a massive redevelopment of the Chain Reaction site, which it purchased from the City of Fremantle last year for $2.6 million.

A swag of residential developments are set to commence along the coast and inner city, boosting Fremantle’s lagging population by several thousand.

After years of controversy and community debate, the State Government’s multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Leighton marshalling yards is finally on track.  The LandCorp project has been scaled down to a redevelopment of four hectares of the 17ha site. When completed the village will house 1,000 people, plus commercial and recreational developments. 

Further down the coast property development companies Stock-land and Perron Group, plus two local developers, are planning an urban village residential development. South Beach Village, located on a 13.6ha former industrial site, will consist of 182 residential lots and 200 apartments and has a project value of $165 million. 

When complete the village will be home to 2,000 people.

And last year Multiplex entered into a joint venture with food distribution company, Sealanes. The joint venture group will develop 170 apartments  on the Sealanes site in South Fremantle.

After considering a number of office location proposals outside Fremantle, such as Welshpool and Kewdale, Sealanes has chosen to stay in Fremantle and will relocate to a $12 million design and construct building located at the nearby Rob Jetty.

The city’s reputation as an education precinct will soon receive a boost if plans by Challenger Tafe to develop a $7.5 million state-of-the-art maritime training centre are given the green light.

It is also understood the Mirvac Group is in preliminary negotiations to acquire MG Kailis’ industrial operation in Fremantle’s Fishing Boat Harbour and turn it into a hotel and tourist hub.

The high level of development is a good indicator of renewed interest in the city. But there is danger in letting market forces make all the decisions, according to City of Fremantle director of planning Jason Miragliotta.

The City of Fremantle is currently reviewing its town-planning scheme, and Mr Miragliotta said a focus on what direction Fremantle wanted to go was needed.

He said Fremantle needed to invite progress that reflected the city’s role as a major city, as well as its economic growth.

The creation of more modern industrial areas, the protection of existing industrial areas against sprawling residential development, and the encouragement of more modern retail and commercial office space in the city will be crucial issues as Fremantle reinvents itself in this current development wave.

 

“Fremantle is now a town containing 400 people and 100 houses, some of which are two storeys of white stone. Perth is not quite as large.”

- Captain James Stirling

Governor of Western Australia, March 31 1831

 

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