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.

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 ‘$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.

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

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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.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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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.

Crying Shame

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Fremantle Council heritage staff and Heritage Council staff have spectacularly failed to ensure good quality outcomes for the West End in recent building works.

The building pictured here on the corner of High and Adelaide Streets has been well restored above the awning, but no efforts were made to have the shopfront harmonise with the upper storey heritage. The incongruity is alarming and totally unsatisfactory.

The value of good shopfronts is recognised around the world. They are fundamental to the success of quality shopping precincts, especially in heritage areas. Fremantle staff are doing nothing to improve or restore shopfronts.

Ironically, the mayor and council removed this shop and this area from the West End Conservation Area. The loss of half of the listed area of the West End Consservation Area was done to make things easier for developers and that has unfortunately passed unnoticed by most people.

Heritage Staff Fail to Protect Fremantle Heritage

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Yet again, Fremantle heritage staff and heritage staff at the State Heritage Office have failed to protect Fremantle’s heritage.

Countless examples exist from the last few years of less than ideal outcomes for the valuable heritage properties of Fremantle. The damaging works carried out at 5 Mouat Street are just the latest example.

Last Thursday the Fremantle Council planning department was phoned about an urgent matter, asking for someone to call back.

No one did.

The matter concerns the installation of air conditioning and other services that day into what is arguably the most photographed building in Fremantle, the level one heritage listed former Strelitz office and warehouse at 5 Mouat Street. The installation was being done in such an unsympathetic manner that I wanted someone to urgently check what was going on.

On Friday I rang the State Heritage Office and they said approval for works at the property had been granted and suggested I speak to someone at Fremantle Council as the responsible authority for the implementation of the works. I rang and spoke to someone at Fremantle Council and they suggested I speak with the State Heritage Office.

Later they suggested I write to Fremantle Council instead of talk.

The attached photographs show the unsightly works which have now been carried out.

The cheap nasty white plastic piping is totally unsuited for a level one heritage building no matter where it is used on the building and in this case the piping is very visible for passers by and for anyone wanting to photograph this important building. The works carried out have destroyed the important visual quality of both sides of the building.

I had the general manager and director of a major air conditioning company view the works on Monday and he agreed that what has been done is unsatisfactory. He said that white piping should not be used on commercial projects because it is not fire rated, and that the excessive use of piping was largely due to cost saving issues to avoid installation of pumps.

These damaging works come on top of earlier damaging works carried out on the building when heavy grey painted bandings were allowed, which turned the building from a soaring vertical Germanic masterpiece to a horizontal wedding cake.

Fremantle Society member and former Chair of the Heritage Council and former Fremantle Council Heritage Architect Ian Molyneux says: “this is intrusive and highly damaging to the degree of cultural heritage significance (CHS) (aesthetic value class) of this Place.”

Action must be taken by Fremantle Council to remedy the damage caused.

Local MLA Simone McGurk is taking the matter up with the Heritage Minister.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society