West End Update

Dr Linley Lutton is an expert urban planner who two years ago warned about the damage Fremantle Council is allowing to the world famous West End. The photo below taken a few days ago shows the truth of his concern as the 8 Packenham Street Sirona development rises above the heritage buildings.

An abbreviated version of his letter is published on the Fremantle Society Facebook page but the 2014 letter from the Fremantle Herald is published below in full.

FREO-NESS AT RISK

 

September 19, 2014 ·

 

IMG_1839 (1)

FREMANTLE city council is misusing its planning scheme to facilitiate poor development outcomes in Fremantle’s heritage-rich West End precinct.

The development industry argument that heritage hinders commercial progress is alive and well and people who try to voice their concerns are labelled “negative”.

Two over-height and poorly designed developments have now been approved in the West End (8 Pakenham Street and Atwell Arcade) because developers claimed extra height is needed in this height–restricted area in order to achieve commercially viable developments.

For years, in Perth’s CBD, cynical developers have shoe-horned characterless buildings behind heritage facades and this approach is now being applied in Fremantle where approving authorities are jumping to support their initiatives.

It was deplorable to hear that in Fremantle recently the council, at a specially convened meeting, listened to a conga line of commercially-focussed people speaking in support of the redevelopment of Atwell Arcade while one lone figure tried in vain to remind the council of its responsibility to heritage conservation.

What is glaringly obvious here is the powerful influence—both negative and positive—that sense-of-place has on urban dwellers is not understood. The unique sense-of-place associated with heritage environments is highly valued in most Australian capital cities because it offers respite from otherwise utilitarian intensity.

Sense-of-place triggers strong memories, attachments and behaviours at community and personal levels. Our very identities are shaped by sense-of-place. Fremantle’s West End precinct, regarded as Perth’s most valuable tourism asset, exhibits a sense of place found nowhere else in the Perth metropolitan area. This is largely due to its scale, streetscape and evocative architecture. Alarmingly, a pattern may be emerging which threatens the overall integrity of this very special place.

Inappropriate developments are now being approved in the West End by misusing a clause in the town planning scheme intended to protect Fremantle’s heritage character. The clause gives the council the capacity to vary any site or development provision, without limitation, in order to preserve heritage values.

However, it does not give the council carte blanche to disregard other broader aims dealing with a variety of issues including preservation of Fremantle’s character. Paradoxically, this powerful clause aimed at heritage preservation is being cherry-picked from a planning framework to facilitate developments which compromise heritage values.

There are two critical points here. First, the capability of a property to return a development profit is never a criterion used to assess development applications. Only in major urban redevelopment areas is it considered relevant.

Developers always push the envelope and in localities anxious to see development occur they will try to convince gullible decision-makers to accommodate greater demands. Regardless of how compelling a developer’s commercial argument may be it has no place in any development assessment process. It was highly inappropriate for Fremantle’s design advisory committee (DAC) to cite commercial capability as a reason to support the Atwell Arcade development. This is an issue well outside this DAC’s formal terms of reference. Additionally, there is nothing in Fremantle’s planning scheme which allows variations to site or development provisions to satisfy commercial capability.

Second, Fremantle councillors, and the DAC cannot work outside the totality of Fremantle’s planning framework, which comprises many interrelated documents thick with phrases such as: developments are to achieve an exceptionally high standard in terms of appearance; developments are to be distinctive befitting their location; and, developments are to complement and contribute to the community’s desired identity and character for Fremantle.

Additionally, the DAC must satisfy itself that a development promotes character by responding to and reinforcing locally distinctive patterns of development and culture. A third party objective assessment of the two approved projects would most likely conclude that neither satisfies the broad intent of many sections in Fremantle’s planning framework including the overall stated aim to protect and conserve Fremantle’s unique cultural heritage. The approvals could be open to challenge because they so obviously ignore many pertinent sections of Fremantle’s planning framework.

Precedent is everything in planning and the precedent is now set for increased heights and characterless modern buildings in the West End. Preservation of the community’s desired character for Fremantle, a clearly stated aim of Fremantle’s planning scheme, has been ignored in order to satisfy development-driven commercial gain. Future developers can now expect height increases anywhere in the West End, even when the design outcomes are perfunctory and the results are clearly visible from the surrounding streets. All they need do is maintain the building’s façade, which they should be doing as a matter of course in this precinct, make a few internal heritage preservation gestures and then propose whatever they like behind and above.  In the process the West End’s overall cohesive scale and unspoilt sense of place is eroded.

The Fremantle community should think long and hard about its attitude to the West End because your elected members and their advisory committee are beginning the process of erosion and the character of this special place is not replaceable.

Letter to Mayor and Councillors about King’s Square Business Plan

Dear Councillors,

The Fremantle Society has sought advice from a range of professionals regarding the Business Plan. We commissioned a licensed practising valuer to assess key aspects of the plan. The valuations of the properties are not the key elements of what is important, though one major developer told The Fremantle Society on two occasions that Fremantle Council was selling $50 million worth of assets for $29 million.

Amomg the key issues are the financial assumptions. We sent you our concerns in an article which quotes the licensed valuer, but not one councillor responded. To date, it seems not a single Councillor has sought independent advice to better understand the nature of these concerns. Referring questions about these issues back to the Mayor and City of Fremantle staff does not constitute independent advice.

As councillors you know that you have a fiduciary duty to ensure that you are properly informed to make a decision on this matter. Ignorance is and will be no excuse or defence in the future for the consequences of your decision if we pursue these issues through legal means if necessary.

Ten Things You Need to Know about the King’s Square Business Plan

1) While it is essential to do everything possible to get the 1250 Department of Housing workers to Fremantle, they do not have to be in a civic space like King’s Square. Kings Square should be used predominantly for civic, retail and residential purposes, with some commercial.

2) The financial assumption in the Business Plan that the new $47 million administration building will increase to $97 million in 20 years for the building alone is ‘absurd’ according to the licensed practising valuer commissioned by the Fremantle Society. It is totally illogical to say that the current administration building has zero value but that a new one will more than double in value in just 20 years to $97.7 million because it is promised to be a better built building. It is our understanding that NO single councillor has sought independent expert advice on that issue, and they should before voting.

3) The false assumption for the new building destroys the 6% claimed NPV, making it negative, and therefore NOT allowing council to borrow funds for it.

4) Council is selling the 850 car bay Queensgate for $16 million and then intends spending $15 million building a 400 car bay car park on the ‘sacred’ community site known as the Stan Reilly site. That is an unsustainable use of ratepayer funds.

5) Queensgate was earning $1,471,829 in rent in 2010 despite vacancies and some use of the building by council. The valuation of the building in 2012 was $15.9 and should have been sold then instead of emptying the building of tenants and waiting until Sirona was ready to purchase, meaning that when lost rent is taken into account and deducted from the heavily discounted sale figure of $6.3 million, ratepayers will be getting almost NOTHING for one of their prime assets.

6) Building a new administration building for the mayor, councillors and staff, along with an underground library the staff do not want, destroys half of King’s Square and prevents Fremantle getting a true civic square for the future as recommended by experts such as Ruth Durack and the Urban Design Centre using Geoffrey London, Adrian Fini, Richard Weller, Dominic Snellgrove, Patric de Villiers, and supported by others such as Ian Molyneux, Robert Campbell, Linley Lutton, and the Fremantle Society. If a new administration building is needed it does not have to be in the same location.

7) The designs proposed for Myer and Queensgate, which include building up to 7 storeys on part of the Queensgate site, not 6 as the mayor states, bring a Claremont Quarter style large box development to the heart of Fremantle which is foreign to and damaging of the heritage of the area.

8. The King’s Square Business Plan has so far failed to keep Myer and revitalise the city centre as proposed and the ratepayer is subsidising the developer Sirona, so the plan should not be extended but let lapse so that further negotiations can take place that do not keep having the ratepayer subsidising the developer.

9. There is no urgency to extend the plan yet again, because the extensions are simply more financial loss for the ratepayer and if the refusal to extend by Council triggers the purchase of the property by Sirona at least the $29 million will be available sooner rather than later.

10. If the plan is not extended but let lapse, council is in a position of strength to renegotiate a new deal which might exclude the necessity for example of Sirona building the administration building, a project the ratepayers cannot afford and which will do little to revitalise King’s Square except further damage the value of the civic square. Have the councillors satisfied themselves there are enough funds available to ensure a new administration building of the promised excellence, which has already gone up from $45 million cost to an estimate a couple of years ago of $52 million?

Besides commissioning a licensed practising valuer we commissioned a report on King’s Square which was part of our submission to the Premier when we met with him last week. They are attached.

(copies of those presentations can be obtained by writing to the Fremantle Society. We also presented a 37 page report to the Premier when we met him last week).

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society

24 April, 2016

 

ps  The photograph below shows the Claremont Quarter type box that will dominate the heritage civic centre of Fremantle, and the new administration building for the mayor, councillors, and staff to replace their existing one, which will further reduce King’s Square to King’s Triangle.

Real Estate - KS Fund 5

Development at Any Cost?

 

 The Fremantle Society want King’s Square area redeveloped but not at any cost.

REMINDER: IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING

Wednesday 20 April, 2016 at 7pm.

Notre Dame Uni cnr Croke and Cliff Street

 ‘$220 million’ King’s Square Business Plan

FREMANTLE COUNCIL REFUSE TO DISCLOSE KEY INFORMATION RELATED TO KING’S SQUARE RE-DEVELOPMENT PLAN

The plan, the largest in the City’s history and already delayed by several years, is due to be extended despite key financial questions from City ratepayers remaining unanswered. 

 Fremantle City Council are withholding financial information which may reveal that the major city centre re-development will result in close to a $50,000,000 erosion of Fremantle’s ratepayers asset base, rather than the gain claimed by Council. Fremantle ratepayers believe they have a right to know how their Council is spending their funds.

The city’s former Mayor, Peter Tagliafferi, has likened council’s actions to a    ‘…return of WA Inc’. He has described the project as “Crazy”, and “a disaster waiting to happen”.

The Fremantle Society (FS), in collaboration with the Fremantle Inner City Residents’ Association (FICRA) and Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association (FRRA), are holding a public meeting on Wednesday 20 April at Notre Dame University in Fremantle. At that meeting, presentations including information from a professional review by a licensed valuer of key assumptions, commissioned by the FS, will reveal the King’s Square Business Plan (a joint project by the City and developers Sirona), is not financially viable.

As part of the plan, the City’s Councillors have voted to sell property to co-developers Sirona at well below market prices, which will result in a financial burden that can only be recovered by large rate increases. The council have refused to hand over their financial assessment after many requests and the Fremantle Society and FRRA and FICRA are seeking an investigation into the financial assumptions of the plan.

backLeafmondday10.00

Smoke and Mirrors- Why Your Money is Going Up in Smoke

002_Aerial Overview of Development Looking East

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ratepayer assets built up over generations are in grave danger of being squandered by the King’s Square Business Plan. If it proceeds it will erode ratepayers’ asset base by close to $50 million.

The Fremantle Society in conjunction with FICRA (Fremantle Inner City Residents’ Association) has called a public meeting next Wednesday April 20th at Notre Dame to explain this. Both organisations, along with FRRA (Fremantle Ratepayers and Residents’ Association) have long held serious concerns about the financial validity of the plan but have been refused access to key documents since October 2014.

In 2012 the City of Fremantle signed the King’s Square Business Plan with developer Sirona Capital to revitalise Fremantle and keep Myer in town.

The plan has done neither.

The plan was promoted in council ads as ‘the most anticipated urban renewal program in Fremantle’s history’ (Herald 20/11/12). Three weeks later former mayor Peter Tagliaferri warned ‘This would be financial suicide if the city embarked down this path’(Herald 15/12/12).

The agreement between the City of Fremantle and Sirona expires on May 10. The agreement has already been extended once at the CEO’s discretion, and it is likely it will be extended again at this month’s council meeting on 27th.  It should not be.

The Fremantle Society has secured independent advice regarding the assumptions that the City of Fremantle has hidden behind to fabricate its artificial positive NPV for this project.  Amongst other things, the advice confirms “it is unbelievable to think that someone could or would state that a building (not building and land) would appreciate over a 20 year period.”

The independent advice obtained from the licensed practising valuer states that:

“1)    The residual valuation of the buildings in year 20 can not be reasonable and is not a sound assumption for this Kings Square Project (KSP).

2)    The 20 year future estimate  at $97.5 Million for buildings which cost $47.44 Million today is absurd.”

Without this assumption, the Kings Square Business Plan financial analysis collapses from a slightly positive NPV to a $30 million loss to ratepayers.

To fund this project, the Council is intending to sell approximately $50 million of property to Sirona for just $29 million. The losses on the sale of valuable City of Fremantle property assets are not factored into the Council’s analysis. Combine the two, and this project creates a black hole that erodes close to $50 million of ratepayer value.

The Business Plan is a pure fabrication of figures to mislead ratepayers, and those responsible must be held to account.

Peter Tagliaferri again broke cover last year  (Herald 29/5/15) to warn that the council’s plans for King’s Square were: ‘crazy, seriously,’ and a ‘disaster waiting to happen.’

While it is an exciting prospect that the Department of Housing may finally be making a decision to come to Fremantle, the project should not destroy ratepayer assets in the process and damage King’s Square by building a new administrative building there and turning the square into a claustrophobic triangle surrounded by large buildings. There are other locations for the mayor, councillors, and staff.

Only ten years ago council spent $50,000 examining, through the Urban Design Centre, the best outcomes for King’s Square.  Their report concluded that Fremantle deserved: “a true urban square- of appropriate size and dignity to anchor the heart of Fremantle ….this is the concept that speaks to the City’s confidence in its future….and refuses to bow to the short term exigencies of a conservative marketplace. It celebrates the original structure of the space.”

The Fremantle Society will present its vision next week, one that emphasises the prime importance of King’s Square – opening it up by removing the aged administration building,  relocating staff into a refurbished Queensgate Centre, and avoiding the unacceptable risk to ratepayer assets.

We need to learn from previous council projects at the Queensgate Centre and Westgate Mall which were financial disasters. The King’s Square Business Plan is much larger and financially riskier, and it is time for councillors to listen to the people they represent.

 

Shocking Shopfronts Saga

 

The sorry saga of sad shopfronts sails on, with the worst example being the Bairds Building in High Street. A large amount of money was spent renovating this important building, and by all accounts the interior work has been well done. But, the shopfront is a shocker, completely at odds with the beautiful architecture of the upper floor, and the heritage buildings either side, all three done by the same architects -Cavanagh and Cavanagh, who designed among other things St Mary’s Cathedral and the fire stations in Fremantle and Perth.

The Baird’s Building is listed by council as being ‘of exceptional significance to the City.’ The new shopfronts are totally inappropriate and do nothing to reunite the bottom of the building with the elaborate stucco decoration and Corinthian columns above.

Fremantle Council heritage staff and the Heritage Council have failed again to insist on the right outcome. None of this work even went to council- it was done under delegated authority by council heritage staff despite the size of the project.

Fremantle’s commercial and tourist competitiveness depends on presenting the heritage areas as authentically as possible, and no amount of weasel words from the council’s heritage staff will convince us otherwise.

IMG_1753

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Godbodnodly1. copy 2

Free Public Meeting in the fabulous Tannock Hall.

Presenters Dr Linley Lutton, Urban Planner, along with John Dowson, President of the Fremantle Society will show you the Good (the Fremantle Society vision for King’s Square), the Bad (the Fremantle Council’s King’s Square Business Plan) and the Ugly (Fremantle Council’s refusal to listen to ratepayers).

The Fremantle Society enrolled the considerable talents of its members to put forward a positive vision for Fremantle’s most important civic space, instead of Fremantle Council’s proposal to destroy it by building a $50 million administration centre there.

The Fremantle Society commissioned a land valuer to assess the King’s Square Business Plan, and the news is not good. The Council has pulled the wool over the eyes of ratepayers with a misleading and costly plan.

The mayor and councillors who support the seriously flawed Business Plan should face serious consequences.