April 30, 2012 Leave a comment
This feature article was written for the May edition of the Committee for Perth’s Insight e-newsletter.
There comes a point in the life of many a city when, after a long period of slow decline, it becomes clear that the business as usual approach is not going to arrest its declining fortunes. Instead some bold action is required.
Fremantle reached that point a couple of years ago as a result of its population stagnating, its retail and commercial floor space declining, its retail and employment diversity shrinking – all in the context of an otherwise booming WA economy.
It became clear to many of us in Fremantle that the level of change necessary wasn’t going to be achieved through some minor adjustments but instead needed to be brought about by a strong vision matched by some
transformational moves – bold changes which will unlock the potential of the city as a vibrant and sustainable urban centre.
As a result Fremantle has embarked on what are likely to be the biggest changes to its CBD since the 1987 Americas Cup. At the heart of this are four transformational moves:
The first – and perhaps most controversial – transformational move was to increase building heights and densities in the Fremantle CBD from what was previously 2-5 floors to 6-10 floors in the non-heritage parts of the city which included sites such as Myer, Target, Westgate Mall, and Coles Woolstores Shopping Centre. This extra height and density will enable Fremantle to more than quadruple the number of people living in the Fremantle CBD. At the moment only around 800 people live in central Fremantle. More people in the centre of Fremantle will make for both a safer and more vibrant centre. It will also enable high quality multi-storey office space to be built in the centre of Fremantle to encourage major commercial businesses back into Fremantle for the first time in decades.
The second transformational move will be to engage in a major public/private partnership to upgrade the Town Square, Kings Square and adjacent buildings (including Fremantle Town Hall Administration Centre, the Myer and Queensgate buildings). When completed, this redevelopment project will likely be the biggest single development project undertaken in Fremantle since the creation of the Fremantle Port itself.
The third transformational move will be to embed diverse and affordable housing provisions into all new developments in Fremantle. This includes allowing small, affordable dwellings on back blocks and a development requirement to ensure new multi-storey developments include at least 15% social housing in addition to a mandatory 25% allocation to small, more affordable apartments of 60m2 and less. These provisions will ensure the thousands of new residents moving into Fremantle come from a diverse range of income levels and enable artists and key workers such as teachers and nurses to live in Fremantle once again.
The fourth and final transformational move is investing in the transition to a low carbon city. WA currently has one of the biggest per capita carbon footprints in the developed world and we need to transform our cities to embrace a more sustainable future. As a result Fremantle is investing in large-scale renewable energy including solar, wind and geothermal. It is also ensuring that all new buildings are environmentally sustainable and linked with good public transport. Ultimately this is going to require embedding light rail into our planning but this is a transformative move that will require the support of the State Government not just Fremantle alone.
It is clear that successful cities of the 21st century are going to need to be very different to the successful cities of the 20th century. The path across the chasms of change can’t be achieved with small tentative steps. It is going to take some giant, transformational leaps. These transformational moves will create the opportunity to make our existing urban centres even better places for people with vibrancy, diversity and sustainability at their core.