MARKET forces may be driving the swath of residential developments under way in Fremantle but the push to reinvigorate the city into a thriving and vibrant commercial centre has come from within the City of Fremantle.
And leading the charge to kick-start the city’s commercial sector is City of Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri.
Mr Tagliaferri believes that, if Fremantle is to become an alternative regional centre to Perth, the city must first get its mix of commercial business right.
A common anecdote when talking to members of the Fremantle business community is that of the Western Australian Tourism Commission’s search for a new office location. According to a number of sources, WATC was considering relocating out of Perth CBD to Fremantle, but despite the City of Fremantle and the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce getting together to find office space that met WATC’s 2,500 square metre space requirement, there was nothing large enough.
Mr Tegliaferri wants to make this story of missed opportunity, and others like it, a thing of the past in Fremantle.
The State Government’s proposed redevelopment of Victoria Quay into a commercial office/retail precinct is expected to inject 24,000sq m of much-needed commercial office space into the city stock of office accommodation.
“It is going to be the number one office space in WA,” Mr Tagliaferri told WA Business News.
“It’s going to be a lot better than a St Georges Terrace address.”
The City of Fremantle is considering redeveloping its core CBD assets into a commercial precinct. In addition to its ownership of the Queensgate building, the nearby vacant Spicer site and council administration buildings, the City of Fremantle is in discussions with the owners of the neighbouring Myer building about its role within any redevelopment plans.
Discussions are also under way with various stakeholders, including a Commonwealth department reported to be considering relocation to new commercial space within the city centre redevelopment.
Mr Tagliaferri said the project was in preliminary stages, however the city was considering a range of options, such as joint ventures or selling off assets for redevelopment.
This hands-on approach to revitalise the city has been a long time coming, according to Mr Tagliaferri.
“Post America’s Cup, the city has struggled to know what its direction was,” he said. “As mayor for the last three years, and in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, we have been selling the story of what we are.”
Mr Tagliferri said this approach of talking to big developers such as Multiplex and Stockland had helped attract more development to the region.
“People have woken up to what Fremantle is really about,” he said.
“A lot of business people stayed away from Fremantle for a while – the City of Fremantle has become accessible by becoming more proactive.”
While the many new residential developments will help increase the pool of rates, State and Federal grants have not increased for the past 10 years, according to the mayor.
“There a number of State institutions here, but there are only 25,000 ratepayers to pick up the bill of a regional city.”
Mr Tagliaferri said funding support was getting closer to being corrected and the State Government was listening in terms of needs.
Each year about two million people visit Fremantle and Mr Tagliaferri believes the city and its community can attract even more people. Of course more people means more cars. Mr Tagliaferri said that if he were still mayor in a decade’s time, parking would be one of the city’s biggest concerns.
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