Breaking News – O’Brien Empire Expands

Major new project

THE whole of the Manning Estate in High Street Mall and Market Street Fremantle, comprising 26 shops, is to be bought by Gerard O’Brien of Silverleaf Investments for approximately $31 million.

The map above shows the O’Brien empire, with the Manning Estate coloured in black, and his other properties outlined in black. They comprise the 7,700 sqm site of the former police buildings and courthouse in Henderson Street, the Coles supermarket site, Target, the banks along Queen Street and the Atwell Buildings and Atwell Arcade.

O’Brien’s developments have drawn strong criticism for what is perceived to be mediocre quality architecture, damaging to the scale and heritage values of Fremantle.

When his new Commonwealth Bank building on the corner of Queen and Cantonment Streets was opened by Minister for Planning and Infrastructure  Alannah MacTiernan, she arrived with the comment: “When is the scaffolding coming down?’

“Crass design”

When the new adjacent buildings (the Q&A Centre on the corner of Queen and Adelaide opposite St John’s Church where Mr O’Brien has an office) were built, outrage was expressed at the crassness of the design.

When the current Atwell Arcade glass box development rose above the world famous gold rush architecture surrounding it, former councillor Bll Massie said: “it sticks out like dogs’ balls.”

Bill Massie, the most pro-development of councillors on Fremantle Council, was the only councillor in 2014 to vote against the Gerard O’Brien Atwell Arcade development when it came to council at a special meeting called by the mayor for  this developer. Bill Massie said it would damage the heritage of Fremantle.
Why Does this Damage to Fremantle’s Heritage Keep Happening?

Besides former councillor Massie, others have condemned the quality of the new project and the Fremantle Society is seeking answers to a series of questions. Architect Sasha Ivanovich, who was on the approving Design Advisory Committee for the development, said that the project went “off the rails”. His full report is published below.

History will show that the halving of the West End Heritage area by council which the Fremantle Society objected to was a deliberate ploy to aid developers. The approval for Atwell Arcade came just after the mayor was installed on the Heritage Council, an organisation which has done little to protect Fremantle since.

At the special 2014 meeting of council to approve Atwell Arcade the following voted to approve the project:  Mayor Pettitt, councillors Sullivan, Strachan, Pemberton, Nabor, Wilson, Hume, Waltham, Wainright, and Fittock.

The community should remember those names at the next election.

Large apartment building planned

Gerard O’Brien is said to have plans to construct a large building of apartments behind the Manning Estate facades. He currently has plans before council for a 12 storey building on the Coles supermarket site.

The Fremantle Society is concerned at the current tsunami of poor quality development damaging to the world class heritage values of Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society is pro-development and wants progress, but it wants better quality results.

Among other things it calls for a revamp of council’s Design Advisory Committee (DAC), which clearly is not working. It still has the same chairman, nominated by the mayor, since its inception. The review should include a rotating chairman and ideas as expressed in the report below.

Professional Assessment of Atwell Arcade Development by Architect Sasha Ivanovich

The Atwell Arcade Development now nearing completion began with cautious optimism. It was hoped that a sensitively thought out design solution would, on one hand contribute to the restoration of  culturally valued, heritage listed shop‐ front of  commercial premises on Adelaide, Market St and High Street Mall and on the other, re-vitalise  a precinct in central Fremantle with new retail and office tenancies. The commercial viability of the proposed new office building to be built in the middle of the site, occupied by low value sheds, justified the cost of redevelopment.

As initially presented, and as reviewed by Council Planning and guided by Fremantle DAC, the new office development, with its simple lines of continuous patterned glass screen on four sides, would conceal the new building façade and provide a plain seamless backdrop to the more ornate historical facades of the shop­‐fronts at ground and first floors, highlighting the original heritage architecture.

There would also have been advice given by Council officers to the Developer for the arcade itself to be restored close to its original character. With the Developer employing their own heritage consultants, Council would have received assurances of that kind.

It is of concern that the finished building deviates from such clear requests from Council and DAC advice, recoded conditions of Planning Approval:

•    Instead of a simple glass box of uniform patterned glass forming the envelope and backdrop to the street level heritage frontages, the screens of the new office building have been angled, other various façade features have been introduced -­‐  spandrels and canopies added and the patterning on the glass removed, amplifying a clash of presentation between the new building and the original..
•    Though there has been some restoration of original glass shop-­fronts, new contemporary style materials have been introduced.
•    Substantial restoration has been performed on the street facades but intermixed with a modern look fascia to the street canopies
•    There would have been an argument from the Developer and their consultants against restoration of the Arcade to its original, ‘for lack of original detail’ -­ the arcade has gone through several refurbishments since its inception. When construction began however, unique timber mouldings that adorned the steel structures of the original arcade were exposed. These have been ignored. Instead of a continuing reference to the ornate design of the original, the new arcade, stripped of its historical references, shares its impersonal and generalist design with shopping centre malls anywhere.

There is a lesson to be learn’t here about implementation of planning approvals. If conditions imposed at planning approval are to be performed, a follow up process is needed – to monitor a developer’s progress from planning approval to construction, before and during construction:

a.    Once the project progresses to Building License, review of design documentation would need to be thoroughly performed to ensure that building license drawings conform to what has been approved and negotiated at planning approval.

b.    The construction process would need to be more vigorously monitored, to ensure that what has been approved at planning stage and in building license drawings and specifications, is carried through in the finished work.

The Design Advisory Committee is best suited to review final construction documents. They would be most sensitive to design issues and be alert to the carefully worded conditions of an original planning approval. Whilst Council remains shy of enforcing in every detail planning approvals, there can be only more breaches in a planning approval process that is considerably invested in time and professional resources.

Sasha Ivanovich FRAIA Fremantle practicing Architect
(past DAC member City of Fremantle DAC,  Town of Vincent DAC  and DAP State DAP sitting member) September 2016.

Fremantle Society Congratulates MSC

October 12,  originally posted by: Charles Pauka

MSC spends $14.5m on new home in Fremantle

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), one of the world’s largest container shipping lines, has recently unveiled its new Australia and New Zealand headquarters in one of Fremantle’s most significant heritage buildings.

After a meticulous four-year, $14.5 million renovation and addition, 11 Cliff Street, Fremantle has been returned to its former glory and will once again house a busy shipping line.


The Fremantle Society acknowledges MSC for their great contribution to the heritage of Fremantle  (Photo: Transport and Logistics News)

Managing director of MSC Australia and New Zealand Kevin Clarke said the investment demonstrated the company’s interest in the region.

Mr Clarke noted the Fremantle headquarters provided a strategic gateway to Asia and MSC’s wider global network and the company had enjoyed strong growth in its cargo import and export business during the past decade.

“The volume of goods imported into Western Australia via MSC’s cargo services has increased by 24.3 per cent in the past decade, whilst exports have risen by 37.6 per cent, giving a total growth of 30.5 per cent.

“Overall, imports into Australia and New Zealand have increased by 30.2 per cent whilst exports have grown by 39.3 per cent, giving a total growth of 34 per cent.”

128 Staff

Mr Clarke said when looking for premises to provide a suitable new headquarters for MSC’s growing operations, the company was excited by the opportunity to restore a building that had played a significant role in the history of the Fremantle port.

“In order to provide our 128 Perth-based staff with a high-quality working environment, we commissioned experienced heritage architect Murray Slavin to restore 11 Cliff Street and build a new 1082sqm adjoining annexe,” Mr Clarke said.

The building was designed by leading Western Australian architect and WWI General Sir Joseph J. Talbot Hobbs, who also designed the Weld Club, the Savoy Hotel and the Perth Masonic Lodge. It was built 114 years ago as the home of another successful export and import company – Dalgety & Co.

Colourful history

“The building has had a colourful and interesting history – always at the heart of the Fremantle business community,” Mr Clarke said.

Dalgety & Co ran its shipping and early rural enterprises from the building until 1927 when Elders bought the property and it became known as Elders House. During its history it has also been known as Barwil House, and the Wilhelmsen Building.

Australian Navy intelligence occupied the building during World War II and it has also housed media bureaus for The West Australian newspaper and the ABC.

16-year WA association

MSC has headquartered its Australia and New Zealand operations in WA for the past 16 years, with the time zone enabling staff to communicate effectively with MSC’s international headquarters in Geneva.

“Our business is all about trust and the relationships we build with our customers,” Mr Clarke said. “I am very proud of our team in Fremantle, and those based throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“MSC established itself in Australia 27 years ago and many of our customers have worked with us since those early years.”

New laws to help rub out graffiti now in force

Government of Western Australia Media Announcement

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Liberal National Government has delivered another blow to graffiti vandalism in Western Australian communities with its tough new graffiti laws coming into force.

Deputy Premier and Police Minister Liza Harvey said the Liberal National Government had delivered another major election commitment by creating a stand-alone graffiti offence which carried significant maximum penalties of a $24,000 fine and/or two years behind bars.

“The delivery of this election commitment sends a clear message to the graffiti vandals that they are committing a serious offence and will pay a high price,” Ms Harvey said.

The Deputy Premier said the Graffiti Vandalism Bill 2015 would also include:

  • mandatory clean-up orders for convicted vandals
  • confiscation of property, such as smart phones and laptops, used to record and transmit graffiti vandalism
  • strengthened Public Transport Authority (PTA) powers to ban serial offenders from buses, trains and stations
  • maintaining local government powers to enter private property to remove graffiti
  • an offence for possession of a graffiti tool or implement.

“These new laws support local councils, business and home owners who deal with the grind of cleaning up graffiti vandalism,” she said.

“Now offenders will understand the effort it takes to clean up and have plenty of time to rethink their unacceptable behaviour.”

Recording devices

The Deputy Premier said the ability to confiscate recording devices was aimed specifically at removing the graffiti vandal’s method to glorify the damage to other people’s property.

“Now graffiti vandalism will truly be the most pointless pastime in WA,” she said.

Ms Harvey said the laws strengthened what the Liberal National Government was already doing to combat graffiti vandalism, which costs WA about $8 million a year to remove.

Fact File

  • Graffiti vandals are currently charged under criminal or property damage
  • In 2007-08 there were 16,025 verified graffiti offences, dropping to 2,139 in 2015-16
  • The cost of removing graffiti vandalism 2012-13 was $7.99 million and in 2013-14, $7.84 million.  These figures have been collated from Western Power, the PTA, Main Roads, Department of Education and nine metropolitan councils

Deputy Premier and Police Minister’s office – 6552 5900

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.


High Rise Not Needed – Herald • Letters 17 September 2016

HISTORY will show that mayor Pettitt and councillors Hume, Nabor, McDonald, Waltham, and Jones are happy to see new developments in the heart of Fremantle as high as the detested 1970 Johnston Court block of flats.

38letters-1They are the ones who voted to allow an eight-storey, plus basement, plus rooftop clutter, development to go through council’s planning committee to the development assessment panel, despite a legal opinion by council’s own lawyers that council could not approve the eighth storey.
The mayor and councillors danced around the legal advice and decided to let the DAP decide. On this former Spotlight site (originally Coles) adjacent to Westgate Mall, 72 residences, 7 commercial tenancies and 97 cars will somehow be jammed into the 1390sqm site.


On this block bounded by Adelaide, Queen and Cantonment streets, on 15 December 1965, Charles Court opened council’s Westgate “Super Centre”, a transit orientated development with Bairds, Coles, and Walsh’s as key tenants. It was promoted as the ‘shopping mecca of the western and southern suburbs.’ It wasn’t long before Myer came to town and wanted something bigger and so within seven years the centre of gravity shifted to King’s Square and Westgate Mall went into decline with Myer (which opened 1 August 1972) and the adjacent Queensgate (1987) becoming the latest salvation of retail in Fremantle.
The photograph showing all the paving leading into Westgate Mall was taken in 1968 from council’s Point Street car park (the first split level car park in WA)  soon after Westgate Mall opened. In the background stands the handsome Johnston Church, weeks before it was demolished to make way for the Johnston Court flats seen in the second (1971) photograph, which also shows the new Crane House at the rear.
Soon after Johnston Court was built in 1970, the mayor and some councillors were aghast at its negative impact, and promised that something like it would never be built again. But here we are 46 years later and neither the mayor nor any councillor blinked when the developer for 52 Adelaide Street argued that Johnston Court was ‘adjacent’ and could be ‘built up to.’ Once 52 Adelaide Street goes through the DAP next Monday (9.30am in Fremantle Council Chamber) the rest of the area could well be blighted with such heights.

The mayor said that nothing ‘but a bomb’ could improve the Westgate Mall area, hardly a considered planning argument for that small part of Fremantle which sits between the important heritage areas of King’s Square and Princess May Park. It may be run down and lacking investment but at  least it has a human scale that suits Fremantle.
The solution for Fremantle’s regeneration is not high rise nor super high density housing creating the slums of the future.
Rather, we need the high quality new buidings we were promised by this council, and some ‘bomb proof’ sensitivity to whatever site the mayor and councillors next lay their eyes on.
John Dowson
The Fremantle Society


The Past Should Inform the Future

But for a Few Major Planning Errors Like Johnston Court and Myer We Could Still Have a Homogenous Historic Town Centre 

This aerial view c1980 is helpful in understanding the evolution of the town centre.

a9fb1173-dd44-412d-865b-952aa00b46b8High Street runs up the middle to King’s Square where council installed large water fountains can be seen and blocked off through traffic.The massive bulk of Myer on the east side of the square dominates with the car park behind. Next to Myer is Woolworths, a few years before the council built Queensgate on that site. Woolworths and Coles moved around to different Fremantle locations over the years, generally doing damage to heritage properties in the process. A point in case is the new Coles at the top left of the photo next to the basilica. Coles replaced the beautiful convent.

On the very left with the striped roof is part of Fremantle’s greatest wool store (now Coles), which council allowed to be demolished soon after this image was taken. It could have provided office space for 100 years. To the right of it sits council’s 1965 Westgate Mall project (see today’s Herald page 5). This £2 million refurbishment with Boans and 26 other retail tenancies was hailed as a cost effective project for ratepayers, supposedly only costing them £80,000 after lot sales. The next Council project, Queensgate, by the time it is sold at a bargain basement price to Sirona, will have cost ratepayers many millions.

Dominating the picture is the 1970 Johnston Court block of flats. Unlike the current 52 Adelaide Street proposed block of flats, the same height as Johnston Court,  that council sent to the Monday 19 September DAP meeting, Johnston Court at least has a court, or areas of open space, and its face to Adelaide Street is narrow. However, it is currently the single biggest blight in the whole area. Without it and Myer, the scale of the original historic town would be largely intact. Unfortunately council now regard Johnston Court heights as being OK in that area, an area immediately adjacent to King’s Square, one of the few town squares anywhere in Australia.

Council decided in 2006 that tall buildings were supposed to be built in the east end of Fremantle, not in its heart. And, with the future relocation of container traffic to Cockburn and the opening up of North Quay land for development, much greater heights there could take the pressure off Fremantle’s sensitive town centre scale. That scale is a valuable economic asset which should not be damaged.