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 (members@fremantle.wa.gov.au) 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

Help Us Help Arthur Head

Exciting Vision for Arthur Head

The photo above shows Fremantle Society committee member Agnieshka Kiera in full flight during a Fremantle Society meeting this week, whose main item of business was to get cracking on a positive vision for Arthur Head.

Arthur Head is in dire straits after years of neglect by Fremantle Council. The Round House only survives because of the amazing work done by an army of volunteers over many years.

Millions of dollars are needed for engineering works. The Round House needs quality maintenance and interpretation. Arthur Head needs better way-finding and lighting and interpretation. The Whalers Tunnel artefacts owned by the Museum were removed because Fremantle Council refused to maintain them. The archaeology of the whalers’ history has been vandalised and some removed by Sunset Events. The archaeology of the Power Station has not been done. The Maritime Heritage Trail (also known as the West End Trail) has been ignored by Council for ten years.

The vision being prepared will draw together themes and attributes of Arthur Head and Bathers Beach precinct, Round House, J Shed and the Maritime Heritage Trail.

Agnieshka had 25 years as Fremantle Council Heritage Architect, overseeing many important heritage projects, and in one five year period, raised $5.5 million in grants money.

She has handed over much of her work to the Society.

Any member with expertise or ideas is welcome to contribute.

The Fremantle Society is tapping into the expertise of its committee, members, and people we work with such as the WA Museum, the Fremantle History Society, and senior historians like Dr Bob Reece.

The committee is excited at the prospect of helping Arthur Head to have a well-funded future focussing on its many historical stories. Treasurer Adele Carles is organising a special event at which Agnieshka Kiera will launch the Vision, while Secretary Chris Williams is working through the many complex documents relating to Arthur Head.

There is very little money for heritage unfortunately, and very little interest in it, from local or state governments.

Fremantle Council have:

  • Abolished its heritage Committee
  • Abolished all funding for the Heritage Grants program
  • Abolished the annual Heritage Awards
  • Abolished the annual Local History Awards
  • Abolished the annual 1.25% of rates which since the year 2000 have gone into the heritage reserve fund.

AND, the State Government has just announced that ALL of the meagre pool of money available for heritage for a whole year is going to Fremantle Prison (who need $27 million but are only getting $3 million). So none of the owners of properties  listed by the Heritage Council in the West End or elsewhere will be able to apply for grants for a year.

Premier McGowan once said: “Heritage is not sexy.” He obviously has not been to Fremantle.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
10 October, 2019


0409 223622

Written and authorised by John Dowson, 12 Mouat Street, Fremantle, WA 6160

When Fighting Clowns, Always Go for the Juggler

Scandalous Neglect of Arthur Head

Six years ago the Fremantle Herald published this picture of Cr Tim Grey-Smith, Mayor Pettitt, and Cr Rachel Pemberton atop Arthur Head launching their idea for an “Arts Hub” at the state’s premier heritage site, Arthur Head.

The plan, of breath-taking immaturity, failed spectacularly, and has caused great distress to existing famous artists there like Greg James. As a metaphor for the derelict state of Arthur Head under this council, a $100,000 Greg James sculpture was last night stolen from the area.

Cr Grey-Smith, put into power in 2009 by Mayor Pettitt to get rid of the best councillor City Ward had had for years, Cr Les Lauder, is now apparently a senior policy advisor for a WA Labor Minister, while at the same time helping run former Labor politician George Gear’s campaign to oust Mayor Russell Aubrey in Melville. Apparently he has no money however, as recently the debt of $17,000 he owed council was waived. These deals for mates appear to be part and parcel of the current modus operandi.

Cr Pemberton, now running for a third term as City Ward councillor, is boasting of the great achievements of council in heritage matters, failing to mention that council has abolished the heritage reserve fund which used to get 1.25% of all rates, has abolished the heritage committee, the heritage grants fund, the annual heritage awards, and the local history awards.

In addition, under her watch, the iconic Arthur Head has deteriorated so badly that millions of dollars are urgently needed to fix it up.

The Fremantle Society has been asked by council to help raise money, as the government have inspected the ruinous state of the area and declined to help. The Fremantle Society is preparing a positive and progressive plan which pulls together the important themes and assets of the area.

Written and authorised by John Dowson, 12 Mouat Street, Fremantle WA 6160

0409 223622. 93352113 and John.dowson@yahoo.com

Ralph Hoare Slams Permanent Damage to Fremantle

Update to Revealing View Post

The above photo of Big Boxes in a small heritage town posted yesterday showing the current view from Fremantle’s National Hotel has brought scathing responses.

One resident:

“That photo is really depressing!”

A business owner:  “It is starting to make me feel sick & tired of this incompetent Regime & its antics ! And, 😤the waiver of debt to Ratepayer is totally unacceptable.”

Another resident:

“WHAAAAATTT! (Can we get our debts ‘forgiven?’)
Just when you think that they can’t get any worse!
Roll on the election counting!”

Prominent Fremantle architect and former President of the Fremantle Society Ralph Hoare writes:

‘A very clear but sad period of development that in 10 years or so has destroyed the essence of Fremantle that was renowned for its clear expression of its heritage past, and now this has now been tipped upside down under the current Mayor’s reign.”

If you agree with this assessment, please ensure you get as many City Ward voters to vote for John Dowson in the current election as you can. Some people like Councillor Sullivan, who lives in South Ward, have two votes in City Ward as well. Every vote counts.

Below is what was posted yesterday with the same image:

Your new Pettitt/Pemberton town centre.

Large incongruous boxes after 10 years of “Revitalisation.’

Your heritage town centre forever damaged.

Other councillors of course helped. Including Cr Grey Smith who owed council $17,000. But the mayor and Cr Pemberton have just voted to allow him not to pay the debt.

Other councillors of course helped.

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

Contact:  john.dowson@yahoo.com

9335 2113   and 0409 22 3622