WITH at least fairly high-rise re-development looming for parts of Fremantle, the opportunity might be snatched to remember curious corners of the CBD. Not much is left; many are already long gone, some soon to go.

Rows of unromantic but essential public toilets were recently lost from the service laneway behind the Maya Restaurant in Higham Buildings, where Market Street meets the Terrace. They served customers of the 1914 indoor and outdoor continuous films of the Palladium Picture Palace, now site of a backpacker’s fronting Packenham Street. With them went an offbeat attraction of old brick structures, amusing plumbing and earliest examples of electrical wiring.

Paddy Troy Mall no longer exits onto William Street under the bridging upper floor of Manning’s Buildings, that private lane being closed off several years ago for a shop but Manning Arcade still gives access to it off the High Street Mall. The last old character shop-houses of that sector have long disappeared or been converted.

The narrow space between buildings that connects South Terrace with that mall alongside Soho Kitchen and Pizza Bella Roma is traversable, although partly absorbed by the exotic Kaza Bianca. Parallel with that at the beginning of South Terrace, it is still possible to sneak into the Newport, formerly Newcastle Club Hotel and whip quickly down its long atmospheric central passageway to the mall. A sidelong glimpse inside the toilets is a bonus – of sorts.

Soon for re-development, Wesley Arcade opposite the Post Office, despite from a much-criticised architectural era, has its own kind of secretive charm with its two levels and branching section toward the church wall. The cloistered mood is all the more accentuated now it is almost deserted.

In a similar way, the derided Westgate Mall offers a degree of sanctuary within its north-south orientation, screened from the activity of its aligned Cantonment and Adelaide Streets. The brutality of the architecture conveys a feeling of strength all the more felt amidst the swirling winds and rain of a winter’s day. All soon to go, with few regrets.

Little Tum Tum Tree Lane, home to the Beetroot Café and mostly empty bijou shops except for a florist almost hides, somewhat unloved, inside the elbow of the intersection of Queen Street and High, diagonally opposite Victoria Hall. Here is a gem of quaintness, giving on to such a rarity: open courtyard dining with old walls.

Its gated arch that once gave access to the Johnston Court building car park is now locked and a handy shortcut of less security-conscious times has been denied public thoroughfare. The single story deco-style former Walter T West building next door has character and historic interest, unlike adjacent shops.

The narrow lane alongside Victoria Hall has been built over to create its Hobbs’ Bar and so has sealed off pedestrians from the rear Phanos service lane and access to the end of Queen Street, once a handy disappearing trick detour to avoid bumping into someone you didn’t want to see.

That lane now ends in a large hidden space dominated by a spreading fig tree and might nearly be described as a shady inner courtyard with charming potential but for it being more dominated by essential parking than gardens.

Such surprises are examples of underused open areas and airspace in the very centre of the city. The area around Bodhi’s Bakery at the foot of Ellen Street is another of these; similarly for huge areas of ground-level parking around Johnston Court and adjacent buildings.

Taken in all, a surprising amount of the CBD is underused in this way and offers itself to imaginative and sensitive development to intensify activity in the heart of Fremantle.




RECENT reports referring to Rokeby Road Subiaco and Claremont Quarter taking business from Fremantle is surely another case of ‘passing the buck’, or blame-shifting. How does that relate to Fremantle’s trading woes?

Try tootling up to Claremont for a little disposable income splashing-out and you will find it’s not a journey you would want to make more than occasionally; it’s an excursion and the traffic situation is no encouragement. Subiaco is even further away.

Alternatively, the cause of the city’s woes, according to one source is the “Dowson Effect”. They may as well call it the (Les) “Lauder Effect” or the “Fremantle Society Effect” – the power of a lot of people. Suddenly, it’s all over the media that Fremantle is in trouble and everyone is deflecting responsibility and running for cover.

Warnings have been sounded for years; check back on local papers. But there may be a double dichotomy here, are we discussing sins of commission or of omission and is Fremantle losing businesses, or business (customers), or is it all of the above?

Perhaps that explains why Claremont and Subiaco are being brought into the argument; that is, the claim they may be taking customers from Fremantle. Unlikely. At the risk of trivializing a serious matter, that’s a chicken and egg situation. That they may be taking some businesses away is possible, but ‘why’ is the core of the matter.

The answer has to be that fewer customers are being attracted to central Fremantle for dry goods while the flagship food and beverage areas are holding in, but are close to the line and there have been significant closures recently.

While customer numbers for them still look good superficially, the average spend is way down – as much as half. A new take-away is likely to add to the pressure. Many businesses are cutting back while putting their hopes on the forthcoming Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships.

Back to Subiaco and Claremont. Their woes have been publicly expressed in newspaper spreads in recent weeks. A raw expression of this is in their shop windows. The red ‘sale’ signs are everywhere: 50% off is common and in some cases, as much as 70%. Not much to envy there. Yes, new Claremont quarter, that glamorous concourse is still fully tenanted, but wait ’til rent review time.

Meanwhile, on Bay View Terrace itself, there are seven vacant street-level premises and twelve nearby. Rokeby Road has five, with ten adjacent, not including the long-closed Subiaco Pavilion or the rows upon rows, at very least 30, ‘for lease’ signs in immediate surrounding buildings. Subiaco’s parking situation has always been a problem and has to be controlled with metering, but there is little problem at Claremont where a vast concourse of free parking provides up to three hours at the Quarter, with more provided by private operators and council. That council is to spend $3.5 million on upgrading the shopping strip. Perhaps, instead of blaming, Fremantle should copy them?


Fremantle’s Strategic Sites.

The Fremantle Society Committee is very concerned regarding the Strategic Sites Working Group (SSWG) report that was adopted at Council in July, with only Cr Dowson speaking and voting against it.

Chair of the Society’s Heritage & Planning Committee, Don Whittington represented the Society on the SSWG and then Society President Ian Alexander was a community rep. Both Don and Ian did not support the SSWG report, so along with Cr Dowson put in a dissenting Report that was tabled at a SSWG meeting. The Society Committee supports that dissenting report.

Of Particular concern to the Committee is the proposal to amend the Town Planning Scheme to remove any statutory height limits on the Woolstores shopping centre site on Cantonment Street, the Gas and Coke Site on Queen Street and Westgate Site on Adelaide Street. We know of no other Council in WA that has taken such a step to effectively remove control of building bulk, scale and height on specific sites. This has the potential to make the size of the proposed ING development seem small by comparison with what could end up on those sites. While Council may believe they can control bulk and scale through the Design Review Committee, we can not share that confidence. Mandating maximum heights in the Planning Scheme is the only way to ensure Bulk, Scale & Height are able to be controlled. This is especially relevant as Development Assessment Panels (DAP) are set to take planning decisions out of Council’s control for developments over $7 million. DAP will use the Council’s Planning Scheme to determine an application; if no height limit is nominated in the Scheme they are at liberty to approve any sized development they wish.

Full-page advertisements in the Western Australian, Fremantle Herald and Fremantle Gazette do not mention the lack of height controls, or the two extra storeys available to the other sites under consideration, if certain design guidelines are met. The map and text only refer to “As of Right” heights.

While there is a process to go through in adopting a Scheme Amendment which includes full Community Consultation, this first step was crucially important in setting the scope of the Scheme Amendment and bodes badly for the final outcome.

The Fremantle Society Committee is working to retain height limits the Fremantle Scheme and lobby for human scale development, but will need the support of members and the community in this.

Appalling Behaviour at Victoria Hall!

“Appalling Behaviour” comes to  Fremantle’s  Victoria Hall! As a part of Homeless Persons’ Week, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre and the Fremantle Business Community, proudly present the award-winning Play ‘Appalling Behaviour’  at Deckchair Theatre, Tuesday 2nd August at 7:30pm.

Direct from sell-out performances across the country and an international touring schedule, the play is a powerful and poetic one-man production by multi-award winning Adelaide playwright and actor Stephen House According to House, the play was set in multi-lingual Paris after a homeless man in Sydney said to him: ‘No-one hears my voice. It’s like I speak another language when I’m here on the streets, people just step around me.”   “ I think the play forces us to think and re-think the way we see and interact with the world and those around us,” said House.
When:  Tuesday 2nd August, 7.30pm
Where:  Victoria Hall, 179 High St, Fremantle  Tickets
– $35 (all proceeds to St Patrick’s Community Support Centre)

Call St Patrick’s on 9430 4159 or email admin@stpats.com.au
Hurry – Limited Tickets Only.
Silent Auction Items Still Welcome

Joint precinct community info, City of Fremantle, 7pm Tues 9 August 2011

As seen on the Mayors blog today ( my empasis):

“High Street Update July 20th 2011.

As many precinct members would be aware, the City of Fremantle and Dept of Transport have recently engaged an independent consultant to do a multi-criteria analysis of number options for High St which will minimize impacts on the Fremantle Public Golf Course and houses while improving freight efficiency and safety and reducing noise. This will include:

  • An underpass for vehicles leaving Fremantle on High St – leaving the surface road for trucks heading to the port with less interruptions,
  • An overpass over High Street
  • Realigning two lanes of High St to the other side of the row of mature trees– reducing the need to take such a large slice of the golf course.
  • Slowing the speed limit in the curve to narrow the curve and have less impact on houses

This assessment is initially considering the number of houses impacted, traffic safety, freight efficiency and noise impacts. The options that pass that test will then be evaluated against the Federal Government’s investment criteria. This study will compare the above options against Option 4 and is expected to be completed by July 31st.

Continue reading “Joint precinct community info, City of Fremantle, 7pm Tues 9 August 2011”

Fremantle Prison application returns

The application from YHA for a hostel in the Women’s Division has come back to Council with little or no change.  It is on the Planning Services Agenda this Wednesday (20 July).  The Society made a comprehensive submission in January, which we sent to all stakeholders, Fremantle Prison’s Bevan Beaver contacted me and said it reflected their views on the application.  When the application was withdrawn we felt confident a new submission would address our fears.  Unfortunately this is not the case, but took some comfort in the Officer’s recommendation for refusal.  Alas Cr Fittock has sent out an alternative motion recommending approval.  The Society believes holiday accommodation is an appropriate adaptive reuse for the Women’s Division, however Fremantle Prison is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and needs a high quality adaption to ensure we make the best of out heritage asset and tourist trade.  I do hope the Planning Services Committee decide to endorse the Officer’s Report and demand a better development for our Prison.