$50 million to get your vote?

Oh No, another Election Year!

Another election year has arrived for local governments and six councillor vacancies will be available in Fremantle.

City Ward (incumbent Cr Pemberton)

South Ward (Cr Strachan)

East Ward (Cr Waltham)

Beaconsfield (Cr Hume)

Hilton (Cr McDonald)

North Fremantle (Cr Jones)

Are you getting value from your councillor? Besides getting $500 a week for attending meetings etc, councillors pay themselves to run those meetings, from a little pot of honey worth $60,000 a year.

On important issues like King’s Square, too many councillors seem either ignorant or disinterested in the details of the spending of $50 million of ratepayer money on a new administration building.

Some seem more interested in ideology. A few weeks ago Cr Strachan (up for re-election) seconded a lunatic-fringe motion to council from Cr Pemberton (up for re-election) to prevent any troops in any parade in Fremantle from carrying weapons (the whole point is the weapons show trust by the City when allowing marches).

On the important subject of the $50 million administration building, Cr Strachan told a ratepayer today: “I do not have a comprehensive set of figures you seem to be asking for available to me at the moment”.

How can a councillor not know the finances of the biggest expenditure of money in Fremantle’s history?

As a result of our last post to you, a resident had written to all councillors with questions about the finances of the King’s Square administration building. At least Cr Strachan was one councillor who replied, as he is very good at doing.

Cr Strachan wrote to the resident: “It is totally inappropriate to make commitments and sign contracts then abandon them because John Dowson thinks it would be nice to have a large open space.”

Cr Strachan’s insulting and false statement ignores the fact that the final contract to build the building has not yet been signed, and it is not just John Dowson who has concerns about the finances and building out the Town Square. Two former WA premiers, two former Fremantle MPs, and all the experts spoken to by the Fremantle Society DO NOT support building the administration building in the town square.

In the same letter Cr Strachan falsely states that:  “the Civic Centre is intended to be the key attractor to Kings Square”. No, the revamped Myer and Queensgate were intended to be the key attractors.

Yes, it is very important to have civic facilities that attract people. The proposed library in the “Civic Centre” will not even be called a library. It will be called a “Community Hub.” Goodbye books, welcome more computers. Goodbye the biggest and best Local History Library in the State – half the staff from which have already been sacked.

The Fremantle Society asked another councillor for the current financial figures, but they didn’t know. The Fremantle Society then asked yet another councillor for the projected rate at paying the building off, and the councillor got the figures all wrong.

So, the Fremantle Society has provided the answers the resident sought from the councillors.

Great Towns have Great Squares

You Have till Next Wednesday

Go and see King’s Square while you can. Walk around it now that the 5841 tons of concrete making up the former administration building have been unsustainably taken down.

Imagine, for probably the last time ever, what King’s Square and its Regency planning from 1833 could finally look like without a huge building there.

But, next Wednesday night, behind closed doors, Fremantle Council’s audit committee will meet to discuss the final shape and cost of the intended new Administration Building, at one time called  ‘Cultural Centre.’

Just over a year ago councillors were asked would they like to save over $20 million and walk away from the large Kerry Hill design. They said no.

The original cost was projected at $47.7 million, and soon climbed to $52 million.

The increasingly cash strapped council is now trying to reduce the building cost to less than $44 million, so they can afford it (and that doesn’t cover the fit out).

Council’s partner, Sirona, who just flicked the ratepayer’s Spicer Site, which they were supposed to develop, to Twiggy Forrest, have just flicked the management of the Administration Building to another company to oversee! More money to Sirona for doing nothing.

Council have not signed the contract to build this building and they do not even know yet if it will have the speculative top floor or not. The top floor will certainly detract from the view of the Town Hall, as former City of Fremantle heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera pointed out.

A posiitve, progressive, sustainable council who cared for the future and appreciated the magic of a true town square for the long term future, would:

a) Save massive future rate rises by putting the council office workers and library elsewhere.

b) Appreciate what the experts have said and what the Fremantle Society has lobbied for for years and give Fremantle the true open space it needs at its heart. Great towns have great squares.

Or, at least defer this project until it is clear that the redeveloped Myer and Queensgate will be filled.

Look at the few council investment property assets that are left. At one time council owned $87.7 million worth of income producing real estate. By building a new $44 million admin building with money it doesn’t have, it will soon have to sell off much of the following:

a) Depot site

b) Car park at Leisure Centre

c) Victoria Hall

d) Car park Josephson and High Streets

and heritage treasures like Union Stores High Street, Furniture Factory Henry Street and Evan Davies Building (Dome) South Terrace.

And of course council may even sell their new administration building.

The $87.7 million of income producing assets will be nothing but a memory, never to be seen again.

You have till next Wednesday to talk with your councillor.


Colin Barnett and Carmen Lawrence Back Fremantle Society

Two former Premiers of Western Australia back Fremantle Society concerns about King’s Square and the proposed new $44 million administration building.

Colin Barnett, whose government was responsible for organising 1200 government workers to move from Perth into King’s Square, to partially make up for the loss of Myer and 1900 jobs lost from Fremantle Hospital, said today he supports the Fremantle Society efforts to save King’s Square from a new administration building for mayor and staff.

Colin Barnett said a true civic square is an important goal. He said when Claremont Quarter was being built he personally intervened to make the developer build a square in the development along Quentin Avenue.

He said Fremantle’s square was far more important.

Former WA Premier Carmen Lawrence reiterated her concerns to the Fremantle Society last week.

She has repeatedly said the the King’s Square project will ‘blight Fremantle for the next 100 years.”

Large boxes are good for developers but ruinous for the scale of Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society wants change and good development based on expert views and not developer views.

The experts repeatedly state that the intended town square, proposed and planned back in 1833, the only one of its kind in WA, should be ‘a true urban square’ ie without an administration building.

At the very least The Fremantle Society wants the administration building delayed until it is clear the proposed government workers will in fact be taking up the available space currently being built on the Myer and Queensgate sites.

New High Street Art Installation- Inner City Beach Created

New Public Art Installation?

Felice Varini has long since departed Fremantle with the $150,000 he was paid to stick yellow aluminium foil over High Street heritage buildings. Many people enjoyed the clever optical illusion, but it was only supposed to be a short term temporary art work, for 3 months.

Over a year later our premier street is a mess, and the clean up bill of over $115,000, which could have funded a dozen heritage projects in the street, will instead go to a clean up.

The clean up is being done by a building contractor who is sand blasting his way up High Street, creating another mess as he goes. The sand (pictured above) from the sand blasting has not been cleaned up. This week council will no doubt announce another art project – the installation of an inner city beach along High Street, to save people from risking their safety transiting Arthur Head to get to Bathers Beach, a headland now at risk of collapses, and covered in scaffolding due to a lack of maintenance by council at that A class reserve.

On the first day of this year the West Australian’s advertorial writer for developers Kent Acott wrote a full page piece on High Street, named by Mayor Pettitt as “WA’s most historically rich street.” The reason given for this laudable assertion was that “it was only made possible through the demolition of dozens of buildings.” This is code for “The Fremantle you love will change rapidly as developers are allowed to build whatever they like.”

Anyway, enjoy the inner city beach.

Barcelona Brilliance or the Usual Sorry Silverleaf Style?

These four images show architects in Barcelona hard at work currently refurbishing a modernist building, the Casa Buros.

Architects from Barcelona visited Fremantle 10 years ago to show their plans for the Coles Woolstore building. The plans were too ambitious and council sent the architects packing. A few years later, architects from Barcelona visited Fremantle to put forward (less) ambitious plans for the Point Street site owned by council, but they were sent packing too.

Now, you have 24 hours to comment on plans for the Coles Woolstore site, not put forward by architects from Barcelona, but by Gerard O’Brien’s company Silverleaf.  We sent you the plans last week, with a report from planning expert Malcolm Mackay.

If you want brilliance for the brilliant little town of Fremantle you have 24 hours to ask for it.

Here is a summary of key points you can ask for:

a) No approval until Silverleaf have complied with plans passed for their Atwell Buildings.

b) Seek to have the 6 small shops in Queen Street removed and the design altered to give that north west corner opposite the railway station a strong, coherent and welcoming architectural feature.

Fremantle Society committee member and inaugural Chair of the Heritage Council Ian Molyneux points to the need to an overall strategic plan linking the railway station to the centre of town, instead of the ad hoc approvals being meted out time after time.

c) The overly dominant and horizontal band of glass of the office area of the new building is alien to and at odds with the Fremantle character.

d) The design of the entrance to the hotel and offices is clumsy, with nothing entrancing to the visitor.

e) The full height shop glazing is more akin to a car showroom along a busy highway than a traditional town centre setting with raised sills and indented openings.

f) Coles should provide a much higher quality supermarket in line with 21st century ones overseas.

Comments to: planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au

Also send to the mayor and councillors:  members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

If you see Gerard O’Brien around town measuring up the next site he is going to buy, ask him for a good building.

If you see the mayor, or your councillor, as them for a good building.

The mayor did comment on the Fremantle Society facebook site pointing to good readaptive work promoted by council by showing a picture of the highly successful Fort Knox woolstore development. What he failed to mention is that when the plans first came to Council, he voted against all the heritage reports and heritage experts and allowed the developer to have extra storeys on top which would have destroyed the saw tooth roof and the heritage integrity of the building. Thank goodness the developer didn’t have the money to build the extra storeys of penthouses there.

The Fremantle Society vision for Fremantle is for a quality environment that sustainably develops the high quality assets we have. Mediocre is not good enough. The “Let’s get on with it brigade” need Fremantle Society members pointing out what could and should be aimed for.

Please get on with your submission.