Fremantle is special. Do you care?



by Fremantle Society president, John Dowson

THE Fremantle Society committee has worked long and hard to put together the full page announcement in this week’s Fremantle Herald.

The full page advertisement in 50,000 newspapers seeks to engage the community in discussion about the direction Fremantle is going, given the tsunami of poor quality new buildings hitting our town.

The Fremantle Society is keen to see new developments and keen to see improved retail, commercial, and residential outcomes. But, not at the cost of the very thing that attracts people here in the first place.

Standards must rise. Council must take responsibility. Damage to Fremantle so far is severe.

The full page ad quotes Fremantle Herald owner Andrew Smith, who, in a front page article in 2011, predicted that Fremantle was facing ‘a nightmare future’ because council had altered the town planning scheme to allow high rise, despite majority community opposition to those changes.

Democracy lost out, and the Fremantle Society wants the nightmare to be replaced by good planning and quality development. And, in some cases, the cap should be put back on the town planning scheme.

Thanks in particular to committee members Adele Carles, Colin Nichol, Roger Garwood, Helen Cox, Don Whittington, Chris Williams, and Robert Bodkin.

November 23- Last Day to Nominate

Nominations close today for positions on the Fremantle Society executive. If you have any questions please call president John Dowson on 9335 2113

Notre Dame 5 Storey Building

Notre Dame University submitted its plans for a 5 storey building in the West End just before Christmas, similarly to Fremantle Council, which has just launched the biggest set of plans in their history (King’s Square), right at Christmas time when few have time to digest such detail, let alone write submissions.

You are looking at a ‘poorly conceived and disrespectful’ proposal pictured below


A top Perth architect Jean-mic Perrine wrote on Freo’s View:

“The proposal by Notre Dame University is inappropriate, poorly conceived and disrespectful of a heritage precinct. What is sadder is that it has little original architectural merit and reminds me of the lazy days of the 70’s when this sort of sketch allowed monstrosity to mushroom in our historic precincts”.

Notre Dame is seeking to build the 5 storey building on a corner with one, two, and three storied buildings on the other corners, and on a large footprint. Five stories are not allowed under the scheme.

Notre Dame have been discussing this with council for a year. It appears that council and the university have not learnt any lessons from the impact of the university’s monoculture in the West End.

The monoculture caused by this very successful university when it crowded out existing pubs and businesses should not continue. The new building should be located OUTSIDE the West End in the Westgate Mall area perhaps, so that students have to permeate through Fremantle,  and just maybe have to walk 4 minutes to one of their buildings – as happens in true university towns like Oxford and Cambridge.

Fremantle’s World Famous West End Again Under Threat

5 Storeys Proposed in West End (which has a 4 storey limit)

Notes from the President

THE University of Notre Dame has refurbished many buildings in the historic West End of Fremantle and have mostly done a good job.

In the past when they  sought to build something new they have largely respected the scale of the West End, and their two new buildings in Cliff and Henry Streets are three storeys in height.

Now they propose 5 storeys on the corner of High and Cliff Streets, and excuse that unwarranted height by saying the flats on top of the old Tramways Building at 1 High Street next door are also high. But the flats were an aberration built during the rush of the America’s Cup, a mistake that should not be copied; not a precedent.

a42bd1f6-f05c-44c3-8bac-60fbe86ec427Site of proposed building on right, adjacent the tall apartments

West End’s Ground Zero

The vacant site on the corner of Cliff and High Streets needs to be built on. We have waited decades for a decent building there after the former mayor’s two storey house was demolished.

But the site is so important, it is Fremantle’s Ground Zero. Whatever goes there should be high quality and fit in with the one, two, and three storey buildings on the other three corners of the  intersection.

If Notre Dame really needs a big building, they should consider building out of the West End, to distribute their student numbers throughout Fremantle instead of adding to the monoculture they have already created in the West End.

Maximum height

Notre Dame knows that 5 storeys in the West End is NOT allowed under the town planning scheme. The MAXIMUM allowed is three storeys plus possibly a 4th storey if well set back.

The rules are there for everyone to obey and Notre Dame should obey the rules. The fact that Fremantle Council has allowed other inappropriate and overscaled developments does not mean Notre Dame should join in with the developers whose only interest is money. Fremantle Council have been discussing these plans for a year with the university and they have been several times in front of the $1,000 an hour DAC (Design Advisory Committee) committee, so the fact that a year later we see a 5 storey proposal coming to the community is greatly disturbing, and simply not good enough.


The proposed design is another matter altogether and a detailed discussion can be held when the plans are published online.  An initial impression is, that like the other two new Notre Dame buildings by the same architect, the design is too ‘boxy’ and features too much glass. We are told there will be a theatre included which may be a public asset.

The Mayor keeps saying the “West End is safe.” This is another example of where it is not.

Some history of Atwell Arcade

The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) Monday 20 May 1895

Page 5 of 8.       


A most noticeable feature in the progress of Fremantle at the present time is the large number of new shops and residences which are in course of construction in the main street in order to meet the growing requirements of the town. The old corner block opposite the Town Hall, which many residents will remember as once having been the site of the old council chambers, is being rapidly demolished in order to make way for a row of two-story shops more in keeping with the times. The new buildings will have a frontage to High-street of 120ft., and comprise four shops with storerooms upon the ground floor. The first floor will be allotted to show and dwelling rooms. The shops are all of large size, being 28 x 35 in the clear, and the largest one at the corner will have as much as 38ft. frontage to the street.

Particular attention has been paid to the windows, some of which will be among the largest in the colony. Each window will consist of one sheet of glass, unbroken by any transom or mullion, thus affording special advantages to soft-goods men, whose goods may be dressed to the ceiling and still be clearly in view of the public. The large shop will have a frontage of 38ft., has three bays of glass, with tiled entrance between, and by this arrangement there will be nearly 50ft. of glass fronting High street.

The elevation has been designed in a conventional manner, similar to that so much in vogue in Melbourne during the great boom, and should therefore be of the most modern and approved style. The whole front is to be built of imported brick, tuck-pointed in black and finished with Doric columns, entablature and pediment worked in “Atsena” cement, the windows also being ornamented with pediments and ornamental dressings of the same material. The cornices will be boldly outlined and enriched with foliated medallions, the whole being surmounted with well proportioned balustrading and panelled pediments culminating in a larger pediment enriched with designs for the modeller to execute. In the panels with which the front will be adorned a new feature will be introduced All these panels are to be set with ornamental glazed tile, which should produce a happy relief in the well toned mouldings of cement. The cement work is all to be coloured in imitation of rich tinted sandstone, and in fact the whole front is designed to present to the eye a desirable combination both of shade and colour. The drawings and construction arc in the hands of Mr P. J. Wilson, A.R.V.T.A., architect, the contractor being Mr. W. Reynolds, of Fremantle. The work is being carried out for Mr. H. Atwell, and when completed will cost about (Pounds) 2,600.



The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954)
Saturday 1 July 1933 p 6


A contract has been let by Messrs. Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown, architects, to Areus Ltd., for the reconstruction of the High-street fronts of Atwell’s arcade, Fremantle. The work, which will cost about £2,000, comprises the modernising the whole of the frontage to High-street, and diverting the entrance to make a more direct line through to Cantonment-street, necessitating the reconstruction of approximately half of the present arcade. The shop fronts will be carried out in nickel finish, with tiled bases and piers and there will be additional and larger shops. The main walk of the arcade will be formed in terrazzo marble. An. effective electric lighting system has been evolved, and generally the work will be an advantage to this part of Fremantle.