THE Heritage Council of WA is gearing up to launch a campaign to promote the commercial benefits of heritage properties, to encourage more adaptive reuse of historic buildings for retail, hospitality, or office uses.
Next month, the council will run a series of management and planning seminars based around the theme ‘heritage means business’, underlining that historic buildings are a key part of the fabric of the Western Australian economy.
State Heritage Office executive director Graeme Gammie said examples of heritage buildings converted into successful businesses were dotted around the city, with some of the most prominent being Brookfield Place, William Street in Northbridge, and the under-construction luxury hotel at the Old Treasury Buildings.
“The majority of them have a current active use and they continue to change over time, they are very much an active part of the economy,” Mr Gammie told Business News.
“Part of the work we do is to promote the understanding that heritage places are part of the economy, they have an active place and to maintain use they need to be adapted.”
Mr Gammie said one of the more successful adaptations of heritage buildings was transforming unused spaces to house bespoke retailers, like on William Street or on Whatley Crescent in Maylands.
“It’s a point of difference you could never replicate in a new build,” he said.
“You want that sense of interest and funkiness and you’re not going to find that at the Galleria in Morley.
“Mall shops are pretty much the same offering, no matter where they are, whereas a strip of heritage shops really has a different look and feel and attracts a different audience and a different proprietor.”
Mr Gammie said the small bar movement, driven in no small part by the City of Perth, had also brought new life to heritage properties, with both bars and cafes working extremely well in that type of environment.
“The heritage buildings are the critical factor because they are of a size that is of a human scale,” he said.
“They’re all unique so tenants and owners can be quite playful in the way they use the building to create the atmosphere and feel for their business and you certainly can’t get that out of a concrete tilt-up.”
The State Heritage Office established a $4 million revolving fund, backed by the state government, to secure the best possible financial returns for underutilised or derelict heritage properties.
The Heritage Works fund will provide the financial capacity to redevelop buildings, which will then be sold or leased, with proceeds going back into the fund to finance the next project.
Fremantle’s historic Warders’ Cottages, where work started earlier this month, are the first properties to be redeveloped under the fund.
Mr Gammie said the fund was the first of its kind to be established in Australia and would help eliminate uncertainties faced by developers working with heritage buildings.
“What we’re doing is addressing those issues so when they are offered to the market, we can provide sufficient certainty that we will actually get the best possible value for those properties,” he said.