Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Based on Wide Ranging Discussions

Fremantle Society Submission on Woolstores Shopping Centre and Car Park Proposal, 28 Cantonment Street Fremantle DAP003/19, December 5, 2019.

Introduction: The Fremantle Society is keen to see new developments in Fremantle which add to the quality of the town and fit in. Unfortunately, the majority of recent development proposals have been insensitive and of low quality.

The site in question is a highly significant one opposite the well restored single storeyed railway station, and enroute along Queen Street to the newly developed King’s Triangle area.

The site was, until inexplicable council permission to demolish it was granted in the 1980s, the site of the biggest and best woolstore in Fremantle. That history, the size of the site, and the surrounding context, should inform the thinking for a replacement building.

Site Context: The site is a large one in a key central area and needs a coordinated development plan, particularly along Queen Street, where the alignment of the road needs to be addressed as part of any development for this site.

Assessment of Proposal:

1. Comprehensive Proposal Needed: A comprehensive redevelopment of the Woolstores Centre site would be extremely welcome as an important contribution to the future of Fremantle. However this is not a comprehensive development, but an ad hoc, piecemeal and speculative one with far too little detail, especially as it is not known if and when a future police building will be funded within Fremantle.

2. Design:The proposal is a bold effort to provide a variegated solution to a very large site, using an accordion like metal faced upper section for the hotel development, while providing a standard glass and brick box like solution for the housing of the police headquarters at the other end of the site.

Boldness alone is not a measure of success, and the effect of the accordion like upper section is more shocking than satisfying, alien to anything else in the historic town of Fremantle, even the adjacent four-storey bank building built by the same developer, where former planning minister Alannah MacTiernan quipped at the opening: “When is the scaffolding coming down?” The serious failure of the proposed design was well described by architect Carl Payne in a recent letter to the editor in the Fremantle Herald.

3. Height, Bulk and Scale: The most important benchmark for the height, scale and massing of the development is set by the adjoining Goldsborough Mort Woolstores building and, to a lesser extent, the newer building at the SE corner of Cantonment and Queen Streets, and that level should best be maintained consistently over the whole site. No protrusions above this level, other than minor necessary protrusions, should be accepted. Architect Ken Adam has made this point very strongly to the Fremantle Society in his analysis. It is accepted that the 21m height limit approximates this level.

4. Queen Street Shops: A key issue that needs resolution is the six shops on Queen Street that are part of this site. As urban planner Malcolm Mackay stated in a commentary commissioned by the Fremantle Society: The retention of the existing shops to Queen Street is unfortunate as the north-western corner of the site is a prominent corner that is clearly visible to people arriving in Fremantle at the railway station; also, the corner would have offered an excellent opportunity to establish a strong and welcoming architectural feature.

Given that the developer owns most of those shops, and that council has the power of compulsory acquisition, the remaining shop should be acquired, and the six existing shops demolished to allow a better design outcome for the hotel development and the realignment of Queen Street.

5. Car Bays:The proposal submitted is seriously deficient in car bays, and the Fremantle Society believes that the anti-car agenda pursued by the council since 2010 needs reviewing, and the development of this site demands adequate parking for supermarket, office, hotel, and the special needs of the police.

6. Interior Quality:The quality of the interior fit out for residents who regularly shop at Coles and others using this prominent site needs to be higher than previous developments by this developer.

7. Percent for Art: While the percent for art scheme initiated for council for major new projects was a good idea in theory, it has been a catastrophic failure, in general littering Fremantle with substandard art work.

Given the fact that the previous woolstore on the site is partially interpreted by interior original wooden beams, and a historic machinery remnant outside on the northern side of Coles, which should be kept and retained in any future development, the Fremantle Society suggests that the percent for art money be used for further historic interpretation of this important site, which could be internal in public spaces or outside. That opportunity for example was missed when the “Manning’s Folly” site was redeveloped as the Quest Apartment Hotel, without any successful attempt to interpret the highly significant history of that site internally or externally.

8. Design Detail: There is not enough detail of materiality or quality of finish and that should be provided before any approval is given. The lack of effort by the developer is exemplified in the statement that the height of the Coles supermarket ceiling will be ’55 metres’.

9. Design Relevance:The use of bricks as shown is appropriate and supported, but the shopfronts appear incongruous for Fremantle and more suitable to a car show room in Victoria Park, while the materials and design above the shopfronts and the corner treatment for the Coles entrance appear featuristic.

Conclusion: The Fremantle Society supports good development and wants to see developers spend money improving the town. But the Fremantle Society is shocked at this latest iteration for the site. The design has been shown to various architects and to members of the community, who overall are scathing, describing it as ‘dismal’ and inappropriate for Fremantle.

There is no urgency for this proposal to be passed, and the Fremantle Society asks that this design be rejected.

Woolstores Site Demands Better Solution

Council Supports More Mediocrity in World Famous Town

The negativity towards our heritage and inherited architecture by the mayor and council has got to stop. The latest iteration of the woolstores development is an example. The mayor claims it is the ‘best yet’,  before it even reaches the planning committee.

The mediocrity repeatedly inflicted on the world famous town of Fremantle is a disgrace. And council is actually proud of the long list of dismal architecture it has supported.

Local architect Carl Payne was correct in the Herald recently when he lambasted the ‘mis-match of scale, texture, colour, materials’ and the ‘awful’ streetscape resolution.

The Plans

Members can attend a viewing of the plans Wednesday 27 November at 5.30pm at Council at Fremantle Oval.

Submissions are due 5 December. Even though the proposal has to go to JDAP, what council says in its determination is highly important.

The Fremantle Society, subsequent to reporting to members following its deliberations and talks with architects such as Sasha Ivanovich and Carl Payne, has viewed the plans with several officers, and is even more alarmed than before.

The Details

What should be a major planning exercise on a massive block of land at a key juncture, with desperately needed improvements to Queen Street, is instead a cobbled together pastiche of cheap speculation.

The planned hotel with its underwhelming entrance does not even have a drop off zone for its clients.

Documents show the revamped Coles is planned to have 55 metre high ceilings, an unnecessary world record for a commercial supermarket.

The anti car council will no doubt support the fact that the development is hundreds of car bays short in its provisions.

The 6 single storey shops shown in the third image above are from the 1990s and should be demolished to allow the widening of Queen Street. That will only happen if council resumes them.

The lack of details provided with the application are alarming and could lead to a repeat of the damaging Atwell Arcade project where what Gerard Obrien built was not what was approved.

The whole site once housed the greatest woolstore in Fremantle and that history forms part of the context of the site that is imperative to get right. It is a challenge to respect the context of such a large site with an understandably piecemeal project, as the large police building on the north east part of the site is purely speculative, and even if agreed to, may not proceed for some years.

Some people are so desperate to see redevelopment of the site, that they are prepared to countenance the futuristic and alien upper level wedding cake being proposed.

More voices, and informed ones, are needed to help guide this important gateway to the new King’s Triangle, by closing date for submissions on December 5th.

Fremantle is too important to allow more mediocrity.


Reminder: Tuesday 10 December at Kidogo 7pm. One of the great venues in town.

Membership Fees

Reminder: Membership fees are due by the AGM on 10 December. Please email Treasurer Adele Carles :

Cheques can be posted to Secretary Chris Williams at 201 High Street Fremantle WA 6160 or PO Box 8160 Fremantle WA 6160

$30 single membership $40 family $100 business

Committee Positions:

If you are interested in nominating for a position on the executive or committee of the Fremantle Society, please get the form from Secretary Chris Williams today or tomorrow at 201 High Street Fremantle or

Featuristic Mediocrity, not Majesty, for Woolstores

re Woolstores 28 Cantonment Street Development Application (DAP003/19)

Like the shocking Atwell Arcade development submitted by the same developer, which was built differently to the plans passed, still has not had the restoration completed that was promised, and has damaged forever the goldrush roofscapes of that part of town, this featuristic design does nothing to enhance a critically important entry point from the railway station to the town.

The council’s Design Advisory Committee may have asked Silverleaf to articulate a form that retains a 2 to 3 storey profile with the upper floors set behind a continuous screen and thereby confirming in the lower floors reference to the predominant scale of the City. But, the proposal at first glance is like a giant wedding cake, is seriously lacking in detail, and should not be approved.

The Fremantle Society commissions experts to provide comment, and architect Sasha Ivanovich says:

The proposal would do well with further detail. It is a massive building and with the extent of red brickwork to the lower floors the proponents should demonstrate how the material could be further articulated with the application of different brick bonding, banding and similar. Though the screen clearly shows the overall intent, more detail would be useful in demonstrating how effective a screen it will end up to be visually, when it is covering a mundane rectangular form facade behind it and also practically, in relation to the sustainability goals which the City has been championing.

Where the project needs further review is in considering its civic value – a large project of this size, to be approved , should demonstrate what it is offering to the City for the concessions it is seeking. What it doesn’t give to the city is a convincing public realm and urban space.

There is an opportunity not to be missed in this approval for the development to cede more space to the public realm and to raise the quality of public space on its street frontages to Cantonment Street and in Elder Place, to the Queen Street and Elder Place corner, at least. More generosity with the streetscape interface and a more generous and positive urban space response would arguably also contribute to the commercial prospect of this development.”

Sasha Ivanovich’s comments add to earlier comments from Fremantle Society committee member Ian Molyneux, inaugural chairman of the Heritage Council, when he said that Fremantle Council urgently needs a masterplan for Queen Street instead of the ad hoc current approach, which means it is difficult to see how Queen Street will ever rise to the standard of its competitor and neighbour Market Street, especially if Queen Street is to become a well worn and attractive conduit from the railway station to the newly developed King’s Triangle.

The ad hoc approach can be seen in the current plans keeping the 6 single storey shops added in the 90s along Queen Street at the railway end. They should go, and the current design should make an effort to provide a strong and welcoming architectural feature on that corner.

This development was discussed with Architect Carl Payne, who said:

“What a frustrating development. We are in some kind of weird visual spiral.

The original woolstores were demolished and replaced with a dull and deceitful pastiche. Pretending to be a new commercial development in “the old woolstores”, they were just a very mediocre cheat.

We now have an opportunity to revitalise the block – this crucial railway-post side gateway to the city – and we get instead the demolition of Pastiche01, with a replacement by Pastiche02.

But trying harder. And so its failure is more spectacular; more long lasting; more frustrating.

Is the small commercial development on the corner of Queen and Elder Place on a separate title or ownership? The streetscape is now just awful, with a mis-match of scale and texture.

The Elder Place elevation is like two buildings built to different scales. Brick pilasters of similar widths, but varying in heights and distances apart. I would fail a first year architectural student if he submitted this.

The vertical elements on the extended large intestine that winds its way around the site like a half-demolished piano accordion, seem to be a camouflage after-thought.

And unlike the brickwork, these are a lazy non-resolution that come straight out of the 2019 cliché-book. Give us a freakin’ break!

The whole affect is reminiscent of Independence Day – the Movie, not the date. A giant accordion has colonised the innards of a South London housing estate from 1958.

It’s so much worse that I imagined it could ever be.

Wow, I really worry about my old town, if this is the best my Council can chaperone through the processes. The processes are broken. We are now officially out of control. “

After 10 years of low quality ‘revitalisation’ in Fremantle, we need the mayor and council to demand much better quality, and a sensitivity to the scale and character of Fremantle. This proposal is simply not good enough for a world famous town.

Fremantle Society members are asked to be involved and engaged. Go to the Fremantle Council website under Have My Say, look at the plans and make a comment by the end of the month.

The Fremantle Society will further study the plans and formulate a final submission. We will try to understand how the developer can argue that the extra height he is seeking is OK because the upper storeys are set back and not visible from the street, when they clearly are. We will try to understand the developer’s assessment report that states Coles Supermarket in the building is reaching for the sky as :

“The Supermarket has a requirement for 55.5 metres clear height throughout its tenancy.”

Email the mayor and councillors ( and demand that they stop giving us mediocrity. They will say that the Joint Development Assessment Panel is the determining authority, but council will make a decision first.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

Final Election Update

The Elections are almost Over!

(personal commentary from City Ward candidate John Dowson who is endorsed by the Fremantle Society)

Doorknocking brings exposure to some nice doors and environments. The photograph shows a beautiful City Ward residential enclave right in the heart of Fremantle. Residents have the amenity of inner city living AND a garden.

This is the old flour mill complex. Years ago it was a derelict site and one which looked vulnerable. I used to receive phone calls from Agnieshka Kiera, the Fremantle Council heritage architect, asking me to check in the evenings if the place was secured, as it was feared it was being deliberately left open in the hope someone would burn it down.

This living environment produced under a previous council is streets ahead of new apartments built recently like the overscaled Liv apartments in Queen Victoria Street that Cr Pemberton is so proud of, described as ‘the Zombie building” by an attendee of the Candidates’ Forum.

I have door knocked every resident I could get access to, and the feedback? The community generally is fed up with the council.

There are many issues, but it has been hard to get them discussed in the Herald or other media.

The community is increasingly aware of and concerned about council finances, and the quality of new development.

Interesting to see expensive council publications like Fre-OH coming out in the middle of an election promoting the council,  and the planting of 714 trees (but not admitting that the number is 30% fewer than 10 years ago).

The CEO  also involved himself in the election by writing a piece defending the council’s financial health – the worst of any metropolitan council. Compare what he wrote with what Martin Lee has written in this week’s Herald Thinking Allowed and decide for yourself.

The Mayor posted that he doesn’t normally get involved in elections, but that because some candidates were telling lies, voters should be careful.

Former Mayor Tagliaferri responded: “Your first line about keeping out of elections is a load of bollocks, you are deeply involved and have been involved in many elections, fielding candidates and supporting candidates… You say there are candidates with misleading information. Who are they? Call them out!”

The mayor has defamed all those who have put themselves up to run against the incumbents.

Whatever happens this weekend when votes are counted, as non-political-party candidates battle against party and council machinery, a good deal of discussion has been generated around key serious issues, and more people are now aware and hopefully more engaged.

Thank you to those who have contributed to my campaign in various ways.

If you have misplaced your ballot paper or have not voted, remember you can visit council at Fremantle Oval during this week, or turn up Saturday to the Town hall between 8am and 6pm.



John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
16 October, 2019

Authorised and printed by John Dowson, 12 Mouat Street, Fremantle WA 6160.

9335 2113    0409 223622