Coles Woolstores/Police Complex (O’Brien again)/Book Launches

Disturbing Comments from Mayor on Coles Woolstores

In response to architect Ken Adam’s latest comments of 28 February, the mayor has made disturbing comments about the proposal for the Coles Woolstore site.

The Fremantle Society commissioned two prominent architects to analyse the Gerard O’Brien Silverleaf proposals for the Coles Woolstores site, a huge piece of land opposite the heritage listed railway station and alongside the heritage listed Marilyn New woolstores (though the mayor keeps saying it’s in the ‘east end’ ‘away from the heritage’ of the town).

Ken Adam wrote a detailed report and spoke at the council planning committee, saying that whatever went on the site should fit within a plane running from Marilyn New’s wool store (21 metres on the left of the image above)  to the 4 storey O’Brien new building on the corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets (approx 21 metres). Architect Carl Payne sent us a sketch of his analysis, which agrees with this and is shown at the bottom of the image above – a very substantial building which would fit the desired square meterage required without needing the proposed towers, and in keeping with the bulk and scale of the wool store which stood there originally.

Ken Adam also stated that the proposal was nowhere near good enough to be granted the sought after height of 38.9 metres based on it being ‘exceptional.’

That view was backed up by the other expert we commissioned – Malcolm Mackay – who sits on seven metropolitan design review committees.

When the mayor rejected Ken Adam’s assertions about height, Ken Adam responded on 28 February:

My comments remain relevant for three reasons. First, Amendment 49 allows the Council to approve a design that may be be “exceptional” or “distinctive” or even “excellent”, but does not oblige it, especially if it is inappropriate or offensive in some way, for example, as in the present case, in terms of its scale. Second, in no way can the design be judged to be “excellent” if the design is not complete, as in this case, where an important and distinctive part of it (the northern section of high rise) is not even included in the application. I have no doubt that, because of this, any approval based on a judgement of “excellence” or equivalent would be thrown out by the Supreme Court. Thirdly, even if the design were complete, there is no guarantee that it would ever be built completely as approved, a fact acknowledged by the officers and the Mayor, so no guarantee can ever be given of its “excellence” or equivalent.I suggest the Council is on dangerous ground.


The mayor replied yesterday:

I can’t agree however as , I am sure you aware, the Fremantle Council is not the approving authority for any of the Amendment 49 sites but this will be done by the JDAPs. They rightly have rule-based approach to decisions and those rules for approval are clearly laid out in Amendment 49.

These comments are deeply disturbing, because, once again, the mayor is washing his hands of the council’s role in these sort of major developments. Again he is blaming the JDAP, when in fact it was his council which pushed through the controversial scheme amendment 49 despite the majority of the community being opposed, and it is his council which will write the report for JDAP and his council which has the opportunity to assess it at the planning committee stage and provide advice to JDAP.

As the Fremantle Society showed last week with its progressive and sustainable vision in its full page ad in the Fremantle Herald, the current council has failed to rejuvenate Fremantle with quality new developments. It must begin doing a much better job.

Ken Adam has made a number of important points above.

There is no doubt that the mayor and council are keen to push through as much development as fast as possible. There is every indication that the council will approve whatever Gerard O’Brien comes up with at the next iteration of the Coles Woolstores saga. Then O’Brien will have an approval for the biggest site in town along with the 6,000 sq m Police Complex site going to the planning committee next week with a recommendation for approval, the hastily approved Mannings Buildings site of 28 shops, and the unfinished Atwell Acade debacle.

On top of that, the other projects already approved and council’s own “Cultural Centre” around King’s Square will soak up more than the current demand from developers and the damage to the town’s architecture will have been done.

Then the people of Fremantle will ask for a debate on the quality of architecture. Too late my dears!

Book Launches

There will be a few book launches in the next few weeks.

1. INVITATION TO BOOK LAUNCH

You are invited to attend the launch of the book Henderson & Coy, Royal Engineers & the Convict Establishment Fremantle, WA, 1850-1872, published in 2017 by Dr Rob Campbell.
Date and time: Tuesday 6th March 2018, 6pm.
Venue: Cullity Gallery, UWA School of Design, The University of Western Australia – Nedlands Campus, Clifton Street entry.
RSVP UWA School of Design before Friday 2nd March 2018:
E: jane.bisschops@uwa.edu.au
T: 6488 1881

New book: Henderson & Coy, by Rob Campbell, 2017.

It all started with the research into the Lunatic Asylum and the Prison buildings in Fremantle in the 1970s, which kindled an interest in the people who built these buildings, and was later developed into a PhD thesis on the whole of the work of the Convict Establishment (completed 2011). This work explored the complex story of the convict system, its architects, engineers and builders, and the buildings that came out of that process, an important contribution to the architectural character of our towns and the development of a building industry in WA.
Then in 2017, Rob turned these interesting stories in to a more accessible book. In his author’s preface Rob wrote: ‘There is the interaction of people rubbing along together while not always enjoying it; there are people who do not enjoy being ruled and over-ruled by remote control from England; there are those who take advantage of the tyranny of distance and a communication time-lapse of three months each way; and those who just get on with the job in difficult circumstances’.
The book will be launched by Simon Anderson, with a story of its production and a tribute by Ingrid van Bremen, at the UWA School of Design, Cullity Gallery. It will be accompanied by an exhibition of Rob Campbell’s key conservation projects through design and working  drawings, research reports, and photographs before, during and after, work on site.

2. INVITATION TO A BOOK LAUNCH

You are invited to attend the launch of the book Yesterday’s Heroes, published in 2017 by Roundhouse Press (Fremantle Society member Allan Watson). Chris Carmody relives the golden era of Fremantle’s footballers and wharfies.

RSVP by Tuesday to 0409 371 674

3.  INVITATION TO A BOOK LAUNCH

You are invited to a book launch of the book Swan River Postcards, published in 2108 by Aussiana Books. John Dowson takes you on a journey down the river using original postcards.

Secret location and date to be announced soon.

Police Complex

The officer report on the Gerard O’Brien Police Complex development in Henderson Street, the site the council should have bought, goes to council planning committee next Wednesday with a recommendation for approval.

The Fremantle Society made a submission after consultation with architects such as Gerard McCann, officers from the National Trust, and the Heritage Council.

The Fremantle Society will study the officer report which wll go to JDAP after going through council, and it is available now online.

In the report officers argue that the 6th floor of the hotel should be deleted, but are allowing a 5th, despite the fact it is NOT set back as required by the rules, and despite the fact it is NOT consistent with the predominant existing scale, which rises after you go west across Henderson Street into the town, as the officer report admits.

There is a shortfall of 282 car bays, but these days council not only does not ask for cash in lieu for parking, but sells its own car parks.

Booze, High Rise, AGM, Tsunami and More

Fremantle’s Scale Ruined Forever

The building above is in St Georges Terrace Perth. It is LOWER in height than the Coles Woolstore Gerard O’Brien Silverleaf development proposal currently out for comment.

The 38.9 metre high (plus 3 metres lift overrun) Coles proposal is 50% higher than the 10 storey Johnston Court and will destroy forever the scale of Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society can reveal that the council’s Design Advisory Committee have NOT signed off on this proposal which will appear before Council on Wednesday 13 December before going to JDAP. They have NOT agreed yet that this design meets the criteria for EXCEPTIONAL design which is required if the developer is to get the extra height up to 38.9 metres that he is seeking. The DAC is required under local planning policy 1.9 to:

have due regard to the following principles to assist in determining the design quality of the development:

1. Character – a place with its own identity

Successful places are distinctive and memorable, with a character that people can appreciate easily. The positive attributes of a place and its people contribute to its special character and sense of identity. They include landscape, building traditions and materials, patterns of local life, and other factors that make one place different from another.

When new development creates public spaces identical to those in every other town, a place risks weakening its connection with its history and losing the things that make it stand out when competing for investment and skilled people.

Objectives:

(i) New development should integrate into its landscape / townscape setting and reinforce local distinctiveness.

(ii) New development should respond positively to the existing layout of buildings, streets and spaces ensuring that adjacent buildings relate to one another, that streets are connected and that spaces complement one another.

(iii) New development should respond positively to local building forms and patterns of development in their detailed layout and design.

(iv) Building materials, construction techniques and details should enhance local distinctiveness.

(v) The scale, massing and height of new development should respond positively to that of the adjoining buildings, the topography, the general pattern of heights, and the views, vistas and landmarks of the place, reinforcing a coherent local identity.

(vi) In designated areas new development should promote the re-establishment of local distinctiveness that builds on the past and reinvigorates locally distinctive patterns of development, landscape and culture to provide the area with a ‘sense of place’.

The Fremantle Society has commissioned experts to help with the writing of submissions. We ask that members submit comments however brief by 22 November to:

planning@fremantle.wa.gov.au
members@fremantle.wa.gov.au

There is no doubt that this massive proposal which promises a hotel, student accommodation, a new Coles, tavern, and offices will appear to councillors like a giant Christmas present, and some will be falling over themselves to say, like Atwell Arcade, ‘we have to have it all, and we have to have it now.’ The mayor will probably argue that the views into Thomson Bay, Rottnest from the top will be so fantastic, that the building thus meets the ‘exceptional’ criteria for extra height.

It is wonderful that developers want to spend money in Fremantle, and we do need good hotels and student accommodation, but developers need to follow the rules.

To guide your submission, we suggest you insist on the policy above being adhered to. The key issue is: Is the proposal ‘exceptional’ in order to get this extraordinary height? Exceptional by definition means something very very special and rare. Does this proposal meet that criteria? What makes it better than the vast majority of other buildings, which are not ‘exceptional’? Given that people can often be judged by what they have already done, consider the Atwell Arcade development, where council is still trying to get this developer to finish the damaging project as promised, and to complete restoration works as detailed.

Initial advice from our expert is that the design is in no way ‘exceptional’ He states that context is key and any new building on this site should take its cues from adjoining buildings – in the case of the northern end of the site the Marilyn New woolstores (21 metres) and at the other end the 4 storey bank on the corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets (18 metres).

Northbridge by the Sea

In an excellent letter to the Fremantle Herald a few weeks ago, member Professor David Hawkes discussed the issue Who is Fremantle for? David sided with the residents (David’s letter is printed in full at the end of today’s epistolary).

But, it appears that council has other ideas. Judged by the tsunami of major developments heavily featuring alcohol, Fremantle appears to be heading in the direction, as Professor Hawks stated recently, of becoming Northbridge by the Sea. Some recent development applications focussing on alcohol:

Warders Cottages: Boutique hotel of 11 rooms, but alcohol for 475.

Police Station Complex: Tavern

Mannings Buildings: Brewery

Coles Woolstore: Tavern

Quarry Street next to oval: Tavern

We Need You, and Your Money

The AGM is on Thursday December 7 at 6.30 at Fremantlle Tennis Club.

Vyonne Geneve (Art Deco Society) will gve a brief talk about her book Picture Palaces of the West which will be for sale on the night along with cards and prints.

Those who buy a copy of Picture Palaces of the West will receive a FREE copy of the history of the Fremantle Society Fighting for Fremantle worth $35.

Also for sale on the night and just in time for Christmas will be some stunning Michal Lewi mounted photographs of Fremantle for the ridiculously low price of $10 each, or $20 if you are feeling wealthy.

We ask members to pay their subscriptions now if possible.

Please consider a donation. Having a lot of people on a concession membership of $15 does not help us pay for the architects and planners we need to employ to help write submissions.

Nomination Deadline: 22 November

22 November is the deadline for applications for the Fremantle Society executive. Please consider putting your name forward. Contact 9335 2113 if you need further information.

Warders’ Cottages 17-29 Henderson Street

The Fremantle Society has made the following submission to council for the proposal of boutique hotel and bar for 475 people, which goes to council on December 13:

Comments:

SIGNIFICANCE: The Warders Cottages are the only buildings in Western Australia on the Federal Government heritage list besides the adjacent Fremantle Prison and are thus of supreme importance as rare convict built terrace houses over 150 years old. Council should ensure that the highest standards are applied to this application.

IMPACT OF PROPOSAL: The idea of a boutique hotel development for these cottages has merit as one way of maintaining their residential use. The cottages have over 150 years of use as private dwellings with their own private backyards, and a major part of the heritage significance of the place lies in the cottages with their conjoined backyards. The question is, how much impact does the current development proposal have on that heritage which was earned over a very long time?

The impact of an 11 room boutique hotel on the fabric of the main building is sensitively managed in many respects, and it is heartening to see the trees retained, though the apparent inability to use the existing staircases because of code compliance issues necessitates a rather clumsy and intrusive upper floor entry. Sightlines to and from the rear of these significant cottages are thus negatively affected.

FOCUS ON ALCOHOL: The applicant is seeking to do much more than just run a small boutique hotel – there is provision for serving alcohol to 475 people. This appears to be an overintensification of the site, however well managed. New owners of adjacent residential warders’ cottages are understandably concerned, and they have every right under current liquor laws to have their amenity and privacy protected.

The size of the proposal leads to a parking shortfall of over 122 car bays and 20 bicycle bays. The applicant argues that the temporary lift on requirement for cash in lieu to be paid in case of a parking shortfall was suspended until September 2014 and that technically it is still suspended and should stay that way because of all the nearby council controlled car parks. But, in recent years council has sold a significant number of its car parks and some have disappeared altogether. Also, a number of recent major development applications are, like this application, focussing on liquor sales, and it appears that Fremantle is heading down the path of becoming less of a place to live, work, and recreate, and more of a “Northbridge by the Sea.”

RECOMMENDATIONS: The Fremantle Society believes:

a) the intensity of this proposal in terms of patron numbers if excessive and should be scaled back.

b) this intensity adds too many new physical elements to this significant site and they should be scaled back.

c) Council should consider reintroducing cash in lieu payments in order to facilitate provision of parking nearby.

d) The applicant’s plans show 5 car bays in Henderson Street earmarked for the hotel. If council is going to hand those car bays over to the hotel, a fee, the equivalent of lost parking revenue, should be charged.

e) The applicant’s report acknowledges the hugely significant vistas in adjacent streets, and thus in William Street, the totally incongruous hotel awning proposed that juts out into William Street should be deleted.

f) The proposed new blank wall facing William Street should be reduced in impact.

g) The proposed art works for the 1% for art scheme are for a light show highlighting the building. While this sounds like an advertising campaign to promote the hotel, it has merit compared with the dismal outcomes at other new development sites around Fremantle under the same scheme.

h) The important original lettering on this building carved into the facade (VR) is bisected by the installation of a downpipe, and this issue should be addressed.

i) Any aerials, lift overruns, or plant installation should be strictly conditioned to be not visible from surrounding streets.

j) If archaeological studies have not been carried out, they should be.

The Fremantle Society has received the following letter on this proposal from a conservation architect:

The State Heritage Office and Heritage Council member Brad Pettitt will probably commission a Heritage Impact Statement which will say that the change of use and new developments will not affect the significance of the buildings or the site as a whole, as they have done for the proposals for Kings Square and for J Shed at Arthur Head.

The real test should be a carefully researched and considered assessment based on the cultural values of the Convict Establishment as a place, the cottages as significant fabric in their own right, and the townscape qualities of that part of Fremantle. This should include a discussion of the Burra Charter idea of compatible use. “Compatible use means a use which respects the cultural significance of a place. Such a use involves no, or minimal, impact on cultural significance”. And “setting” which is defined as “the immediate and extended environment of a place that is part of or contributes to its cultural significance and distinctive character”. This will only be possible if there is a good assessment of significance for the cottages in the conservation plan. It is usual to update a conservation plan for a place at regular intervals and whenever important changes that may affect its cultural value are being made.

I note that the HIS in the Proposal papers reports a conservation management plan for the cottages dated 2016. I have not seen this document, and it is interesting to note that the HIS does not use the statement of significance in this document to make its assessment, but rather refers to the National Heritage assessment of value for the prison site as a whole. This is not enough to use in assessing the affect of the proposal on the cultural values of the cottages in their own right.

We were still angry about the poor quality repair work carried out on them which continues to degrade, and the VR is still covered by a downpipe.

Letter to Herald from Professor David Hawkes:

When seeking re-election Brad Pettitt promoted himself as wanting to make Fremantle more livable. The question remains however for whom is it be made more livable? Too often we are left with the impression that the City’s livability is to be measured in terms of the financial health of its retailers, some of whom, but not all of whom, live in Fremantle. Others see Fremantle merely as a retail opportunity.

Self evidently, retailers benefit from more people buying things, so maintaining their viability frequently
translates into there being a need to attract more visitors, to which the City responds by offering more events calculated to bring those visitors into the City.

The question is however whether this makes the City more livable. Retailers are often their own worst enemy, offering essentially the same goods on opposite sides of the street, and expressing surprise when one or more of them goes bust; while events sometimes corral parts of the City, confining them to those who have paid for entrance to what was previously public space.

What the City needs to be more liveable is a greater diversity of retailers not a redundancy of coffee and cake cafes and fast food outlets: a diversity which services those of us who live here, pay its rates, its parking permits and sometimes its parking fines. While a City as attractive as Fremantle is always going to have visitors, and many of us will have been visitors to other cities, a balance needs to be struck which favours and acknowledges the priority of those who live here. A City becomes less liveable not more so as it increases its number of visitors, as residents of other even more renowned cities have come to realize.

The City does not belong to its retailers: it belongs to those of us who have chosen to live here, which of course includes some retailers. It belongs to us in the sense that we have acquired a familiarity with it, are recognized as we move around it, have ready access to its officers and are respected by them as their employers. It is reflected in our willingness to provide services for those less fortunate than ourselves and our responsiveness to the City’s requests for advice in relation to its many submissions and in the many other intangible ways which have contributed to our desire to live here.
Visitors, and their presumed appetite for retail, are not the reason for our choosing to live in Fremantle, nor do they, except in a transient way, define its ambience.

John Dowson
President
The Fremantle Society