Notes from the President - three subjects

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The top picture shows the attractively sculptured tennis grandstand and facility building at Royal King's Park Tennis Club, so good, that almost 100 years after its construction, it is being refurbished to be enjoyed for another 100 years.

The photo underneath shows the rubbish that will be built by Fremantle Council on Fremantle Park as part of the $4 million combined tennis, bowling, and Workers' Club facility.

Because Council classify it as a 'public work' it does not even have to go through council's own planning committee, and it certainly hasn't been near the council's Design Advisory Committee.

The Fremantle Society raised the issue of having the design go to the Design Advisory Committee earlier this year but were ignored. The Fremantle Society submitted the letter below to the mayor and all councillors before yesterday's council meeting, but not one councillor responded.

It is way beyond time that Fremantle Council gives us good architecture instead of the dismal effort they have made with this project. This site is on the precious Fremantle Park, and the building will be highly visible from all sides given its location, making it imperative that whatever is built should be attractive and  befitting its prominent site.

Dear Elected Members

Tonight there is an item for the Finance Committee concerning the tender process for the $4 million Sports and Community Hub on Fremantle Park.

The Fremantle Society is keen to see a high quality sports and community hub on Fremantle Park, but at its meeting on Tuesday 13 November, condemned the architectural quality of the proposal and consider the current proposal to be totally inappropriate for such a prominent site with such high visibility.

The agenda paper carries over 100 pages of details of a North Fremantle Foreshore proposal but hardly any details and no visuals of the $4 million Fremantle Park building.

At the very least this design needs to go to the Design Advisory Committee. If it has been through the committee, the Fremantle Society seeks a review to ensure better design outcomes. 

The Fremantle Society notes that the tenderer, Cooper and Oxley,  who topped every category except price, has not been chosen. The Fremantle Society spoke to Cooper and Oxley who state that considerable cost savings could be made to the building through value engineering solutions. Two examples are the roof which could be  timber instead of steel, and the precast sills all the way round which are expensive, and cannot be seen and $50,000 could be saved on that item alone being altered. A suggestion from the Fremantle Society is that it might be best to take forward two builders and include Cooper and Oxley who scored top in all categories except price.

Nobody the Fremantle Society has spoken to is happy with the look of the current proposal. The responses have been scathing, especially from two architects we approached. The Fremantle Society's main concern at this stage is the architectural quality. 

The building pictured above was built almost 100 years ago for the Kings Park Tennis Club as a tennis facility, and while the needs of the Fremantle project are quite different, the facility in King's Park has architectural and sculptural qualities so good that almost 100 years later it is now being refurbished for its next life.

(top photo by John Dowson, second photo from Roel Looper's blog)

Innovative, Authentic, Connected

The above three words were the themes for the ICTC planning conference currently in Fremantle with 270 delegates from all over the world. This conference was also in Fremantle in 2004 (

The Fremantle Society couldn't afford the $1300 ticket price to attend, but we did circulate to delegates the following request for feedback:

Fremantle Needs Your Feedback!

Welcome! The Fremantle Society welcomes delegates to the 2018 ICTC Conference. The Fremantle Society is a community group, which since 1972 has sought to protect and enhance the world-famous heritage of the town.

The Fremantle Society supports high quality new development that respects the important human scale of Fremantle.

Unsustainable big boxes: There are serious problems currently in Fremantle with the low quality, unsustainable ‘big box’ mentality that Fremantle Council is pursuing. The council has sought to ‘revitalise’ Fremantle by radically altering the town planning scheme, to allow relatively high rise buildings in Fremantle, despite that move being rejected by the majority of residents.

The result has been a boon for developers but not for Fremantle. Instead of well-designed and carefully integrated new developments, we are seeing large unattractive boxes. You will be shown the successful Heirloom apartments in an old woolstore (approved by a previous council), and the oversized new Liv apartments across the road delivered by the current council, which ruin the scale of the town and undermine the status of the woolstores as being the ‘giant’ of Fremantle on its river edge.

You will notice an incongruous new shiny glass box behind Atwell Arcade in the High Street Mall, forever ruining the streetscape and roofscape of the goldrush architecture in the centre of town.

Misuse of policies: Expert urban planner Dr Linley Lutton stated: ‘Fremantle City Council is misusing its planning scheme to facilitate poor development outcomes in Fremantle’s heritage rich West End precinct.’ You may notice the new ‘technically illegal’ 5 storey Quest Apartments in Pakenham Street in the West End, where only three storeys (with a possible 4th if set back) are allowed.

Projects in Fremantle: You will be shown the highly successful skate park, built on Esplanade Park, instead of the car park next to it as the conservation plan demanded.

You will be shown the Fremantle Town Hall, where repairs budgeted for in 2009 took so long to carry out, the bill ran to over $3 million. You will notice inside that no renovation works have been done since 1986.

You will be shown King’s Square, one of the few town squares in Western Australia, about to be turned into an overdeveloped triangle, with a $50 million administration building for the mayor and councillors the community did not ask for, and which it cannot afford. The King’s Square development has been described by the former Premier of Western Australia Carmen Lawrence as ‘a blight on Fremantle for the next 100 years.’

The owner of the Fremantle Herald, former East Fremantle Mayor Andrew Smith, wrote on his front page under a headline ‘Fremantle facing a nightmare future’ that: ‘Fremantle council’s dramatic plan for the CBD will turn Fremantle into just another boring modern town. It’s a blueprint right out of the 1950s.’ (3/12/11)

The Fremantle Society wants to see King’s Square developed as a true town centre square following the recommendation of the $60,000 report council commissioned from Ruth Durack, not a cluttered triangle.

King’s Square developments are advertised by council as ‘sustainable’ when in fact they are not. Council sold its Queensgate building for millions of dollars under true value, and instead of recycling it, allowed its demolition, just 28 years after council built it. Council’s administration building, built in the same year as the Port Authority building on Cliff Street, and using the same builder, has just been demolished and not recycled, while the port authority building has just had a book written about it to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

To pay for this ‘revitalisation’, council has been selling its assets. At the start of Mayor Pettitt’s reign, ratepayers had $57 million of assets. That is down to around $20 million. Unsustainable and of great concern.

Freo deserves high quality: There are many success stories in Fremantle- generally high quality small businesses, and none of them require unattractive large boxes to function in.

One of the success stories of Fremantle has been the growth of Notre Dame University, which has brought 7,000 students to town without building anything over three storeys.

Community sidelined in Fremantle and throughout WA: Besides Fremantle Council’s faults, there are serious state-wide planning issues in Western Australia, producing controversial results. The very bodies that should protect the community from overdevelopment and mediocrity like the Heritage Council, National Trust, Swan River Trust, and JDAP, have been infiltrated by the development industry, leading to more community groups being formed to fight to protect their amenity and lifestyle.

Save Fremantle’s character: Fremantle has a special character and scale developed over 180 years. New developments should fit in and be good neighbours. What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Societyjohn.dowson@yahoo.comNovember, 2018


Former ANZ Bank Fails to Sell

On Wednesday this week the art deco former ANZ Bank at 84-86 High Street, more recently known as World of Renovation, failed to sell after reaching $2.7million.

In an important test of the health of the Fremantle CBD market, only two bidders were interested in the property, which last sold for $2.8 million, before over $1 million was spent upgrading the building. The 500 square metre site would make an ideal showroom for a top drawer retail firm like Rolex or even Apple. The location and quality of the building are outstanding. It is a tragedy, that 8 years after the launch of council's hugely expensive 'revitalisation' program, there is no appetite for such an iconic property, except from a couple of local bargain hunters.

Meanwhile, the big box that is Claremont Quarter is showing just what a good idea it is to buy a high rise apartment. A two bedroom top floor apartment bought off the plan in 2007 for $1.895 million, was resold in June this year for $850,000. The first buyer has lost 63% of their investment.


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