Doing density differently – an opinion piece for Perth Now

Last week I was asked to write an opinion piece for Perth Now on development in Fremantle. The link and article are below.

It focused on density and it’s benefits and challenges. It is not an issue confined to Freo. Subi, South Perth, Cottosloe etc are all having the same debates across the Perth metro area. And the same debate is also happening from Europe to the US. Check out this excellent  article on density in US cities including Austin, Texas and Washington DC which helps put the Freo debates in a wider context.


The Fremantle article I wrote  is at the link and below:

The need to bring taller buildings to Fremantle

This week’s dramatically increased population projections for Perth and WA took many of us by surprise. By 2026 WA will crack the 3 million mark and Perth will be around 2.3million. This new projection is a staggering 400,000 more people than was predicted just a few years ago in 2006.

As Perth rapidly grows it is in danger of spreading incoherently from Dunsborough to Dongara unless we learn to stack instead of spread, go up up instead just going out.

If we are to address unsustainable urban sprawl then it is clear that we need to get more people living in Perth’s existing centers and embrace higher density living.

There are a myriad good reasons to do this from preserving bushland, to making us less automobile dependent, to creating greater housing choices.

The problem, however, is that many places established centres like Fremantle, Subiaco, Leederville and South Perth there is more often than not strong and vocal opposition to higher density proposals.

When you look at higher buildings of the past few decades you can see why. Density of the past has been dominated on one end of the spectrum by the cheap salmon-coloured brick flats of the 1960s and 70s that are scattered amongst Perth’s established suburbs or at the other end of the spectrum luxury apartments that are expensive, exclusive and elitist.

With these examples dominating our skyline it is no wonder that for the last 30 years Perth has had what some have labelled a “density hangover”.

The best cure for this hangover, however, is to do density differently and this time to do it well.

Density done differently would be more often than not be 4-8 stories and  have active ground floor frontages with a  mix of uses from cafes and small bars to local retail. Places for community to flourish.

Density done differently would be enable the building of more affordable and diverse housing in Perth’s increasingly unaffordable housing market. Instead of primarily building Australia’s biggest houses on the suburban fringes can build affordable apartments that average wage earners can afford in existing centres. This would create real housing choice.

Density done differently would also enable Perth to take the first steps to a  creating a lower carbon city. Perth currently has one of the  biggest per capita carbon footprints in the developed world.

Down in Fremantle we are doing our bit to create a denser, more sustainable Perth. We are planning to quadruple our CBD population through allowing taller buildings in the non heritage areas. But these height bonuses will come with the requirement that developers build green buildings with diverse and affordable apartments and high quality design.

This is a central strategy in Fremantle’s rejuvenation as Perth’s second city.

But doing density differently I hope won’t only be good for Freo but inspire other centers how they can contribute to a more sustainable and affordable Perth.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

3 Responses to Doing density differently – an opinion piece for Perth Now

  1. Janine Marshall says:

    I like everything that you just typed – in my eyes its the ONLY solution!
    Well said again Brad.

  2. Craig Olde says:

    Great article.
    Im sitting in a small bar in Windsor on the southern end of Chapel St (Melb).
    There is not a ‘high rise’ in sight, but the 3,4,5 level surrounding density provides enough population to support small and creative businesses within walking distance of this comfortable little spot. It feels much like freo, but it is full of people who have walked here. Right here is visible the solution, the answer to take Freo from a good place to an amazing place. There is no aggression, no anti social behaviour, it feels safe, local, and homely in a community sense. Actually Freo is better, it just doesnt have the people who walked here.
    Relatively easy to solve…. see article above…
    This cannot be implemented in suburbia.

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