Communicating the vision thing

I was just sent an excellent article called The tricky knack of a political narrative by Bernard Keane on the challenges of having your vision heard in these days.

It makes you feel a little sorry for whoever is in power (be it Gillard or Barnett) and cutting through the noise to make your vision heard in an election year. Especially telling is the quote that: “It’s easier to communicate a negative narrative than a positive one… Negative narratives are simple; positive narratives are complex and nuanced. It’s easier for oppositions to communicate narratives than governments, because governments have to govern in the real world, with all its imperfections, while oppositions govern purely in rhetoric, where things are always easier and everything runs smoothly.”

It also made me think about Fremantle Council’s vision and narrative. Our vision is clear to me but that’s because I live and breathe its implementation every day but maybe not to everyone else.

So for those of you wondering what it is that Fremantle Council is trying to do here’s a quick attempt at a rather unofficial version of our vision and narrative (for a more official version check out our Strategic Plan part way down the page at )

The Council’s vision for Freo is that it maintains its economic and cultural heritage by continuing to be Perth’s second city – a place of consequence not just another dormitory suburb where people go home to sleep and tourists visit on the weekend. Fremantle will be vibrant seven day a week economically rejuvenated city with more people living, working and playing in it each day.

We will of course need new development to accommodate these extra people. The new developments will be environmentally sustainable, of high architectural design quality and have a high component of affordable housing which will ensure Fremantle remains an inclusive and diverse community not just a place for the wealthy.

Fremantle will have great public transport (including light rail) and bike and pedestrian links in and around the city so cars are not the dominant form of transport.

Fremantle will preserve and maintain its unique built heritage just as it will build on its unique cultural heritage including being home to innovative arts, culture and festivals.

Finally we will show leadership and innovation through minimising our ecological footprint and share our leadership as a 21st century sustainable city.

Well that’s my quick stab at our vision from a rain-soaked Cocos Island. I’d love your feedback. BTW Keep your ear out for a likely  announcement of community visioning shortly.

If you want to read the full article it can be found at:

freo icons 2

March for the Kimberley on Fremantle Esplanade 1.30 – 6.30pm, Sunday Feb 24th

John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins and Ball Park Music
to play Free Concert and March for the Kimberley on Fremantle Esplanade 1.30 – 6.30pm, Sunday Feb 24th
Also with special guest Sea Shepherd Director Bob Brown
“This concert and rally is a call to arms for all West Australians to stand up and protect one of our finest national
treasures, The Kimberley,” said John Butler.
“To think of industrialising this truly special region in order to exploit a resource which is more profitable and
practical to process somewhere else seems absolutely ludicrous,“

The Kimberley coast is classed in the top 4% of the least untouched marine environments in the world alongside
the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. Its pristine waters are home to the world’s largest humpback whale nursery, and
threatened dolphins, sea turtles and dugongs. The region is also a significant Indigenous heritage site, is home to
the longest chain of dinosaur footprints on the planet.


ABC article – Plans afoot to revitalise the port city’s centre

With the Kings Square business plan passing council on Monday night, Freo residents can expect to see some great changes in our town centre over the next year.

Here is how the ABC covered it:

Plans afoot to revitalise the port city’s centre

By Lucy Martin

The sliding doors of Myer’s Fremantle department store whooshed shut for the last time last month.

For long-time residents, the retailer’s departure after 40 years signals the end of an era.

And, for a historical port city going through a time of unprecedented change, it may just open more doors than it closed.

Myer’s decision not to renew its lease in Fremantle was blamed on a raft of factors, including sluggish sales and high rental rates.

Only two of the building’s four floors were used and, far from being a drawcard for shoppers, the store stood practically empty on weekdays.

By the time it closed, the City of Fremantle had been aware of Myer’s flagging performance for several years.

A 2010 council report flagged serious shortcomings with the city’s retail precinct, including the distance between major shops, a lack of variety and several “dead spots”.

The report found those issues “detracts from the enjoyment of walking around Fremantle and also leads to elements of anti-social behaviour that further compounds the problem.”

It also revealed the vast majority of residents surveyed were choosing to shop in other suburbs other than Fremantle.

Not surprisingly, 48% nominated the port city as their preferred place to eat out.

But, when it came to fashion, homewares and gifts, the majority ditched Fremantle and headed straight to Garden City shopping centre in Booragoon.

Bob Stanton, from the Independent Retailers’ Organisation, believes Myer opting out of the city is indicative of a wider trend, with customers abandoning high street shopping in favour of sprawling malls.

“Fremantle is all about strip shopping, and shopping strips are dying all over Australia,” he said.

“People are heading to the big centres because it’s more comfortable to wander around in air-conditioning where the stores are confined to a small space.”

Mr Stanton says the introduction of seven-day trading has also robbed Fremantle of a key selling point.

Fremantle writer Colin Nichol, who has been monitoring the vacancy rates since 2005, says there are about 84 empty shops in the city’s CBD, twice as many as when he first began a tally.

They’re all problems Fremantle Mayor Brad Petitt is well aware of.

He says bumper-to-bumper traffic and packed car parks every Saturday and Sunday are testament to the popularity of Fremantle’s fresh food and tourist market.

The weekend rush is in stark contrast to other days of the week, when trade is quiet.

“We know our challenge is to make Fremantle work as a vibrant economy for seven days a week, not three,” he said.

“I think the best way to do that is to get more people living, working and playing here.”

The 2010 retail report has become the blueprint for an ambitious overhaul of Fremantle CBD’s retail precinct.

To market, to market

At the centre of the plan is the Kings Square precinct, which includes Fremantle’s library, council offices, visitors centre, car parking and the Myer building.

The $220 million project will involve council selling several buildings and the car park to Perth-based company, Sirona Capital Management, which already owns the Myer building.

This week councillors voted to formally adopt the business plan for the project, paving the way for Sirona to redevelop buildings and fill the space with tenants.

It will be the biggest single redevelopment in the city’s history.

“What we’ll see is a range of speciality shops moving in (to the Myer building), rather than a department store moving back in,” Mr Pettitt said.

“Above that will be several floors of office space.

“At the moment, only two floors of the building are being used, but at the end of this development it will be five floors and they’ll all be filled.”

The council hopes to hold an international architecture competition with the winner designing buildings in the civic square.

Mr Stanton believes Fremantle’s fresh market is its biggest drawcard and wants to see it expanded.

He envisions a grassed area with plenty of buskers and the party atmosphere Fremantle is known for.

He says the markets could even be moved to the old Myer site as part of the Kings Square development.

Mr Pettitt says the council is working hard to capitalise on Fremantle’s market atmosphere.

“They are one of the things that define Fremantle, that sort of distinctive market produce that you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.

“I think the future of shopping here is going to be about (providing) a place where people come for a unique experience and produce they can’t get anywhere else, rather than trying to compete with shopping centres.

“We’d be happy to see the markets expand but we’re also working on other day-time markets five days a week in our main square.

“The new Saturday night market on Bather’s Beach is really popular too.”

Work has also started on boosting the number of permanent residents, guided by the council’s retail model plan.

Last month, housing density in non-heritage areas was increased in a bid to quadruple the number of people living in the CBD.

The car park squeeze Mr Pettitt refers to is being addressed, too.

“Not only are we looking at providing substantial new parking as part of the redevelopment, but also making that parking more user friendly, such as making the first hour free in major carparks and half an hour free on the streets,” he said.

Creative appeal

Marcus Westbury is somewhat of an expert when it comes to revitalising a struggling city centre.

Several years ago he started a non-profit group called Renew Australia, at a time when the NSW city of Newcastle had around 150 vacant shops in its CBD and key retailer David Jones closed down.

His organisation convinced building owners to lend their otherwise vacant spaces for free.

“We then made those buildings available to creative enterprises and ended up launching more than 90 projects in about four years,” he said.

“We targeted designers, artists and craftspeople who were not retailers in the traditional sense, but who added a lot of interest to an area.

“Many already had successful online businesses but we encouraged them to open physical businesses as well.

“The malls have since filled up and we’ve gone from having lots of empty shops to almost 100 per cent occupancy.”

Mr Westbury spoke about the concept at an urban planning forum in Perth.

“One thing we’ve learned is that activity creates activity,” he said.

“If new things are opening and the area is full of original things, it attracts people and goes from there.

“There’s probably a dozen shopping centres with the same 100 shops in them, so to stand out you need to offer something distinctive and I think Fremantle has got that potential.”

Fremantle council runs a similar program using its own buildings and has commercial buildings in its sights.

Mr Pettitt says work has started on convincing local building owners to get involved.

“I would like to see this expanded so we have no empty shop fronts in Fremantle,” he said.

“As a carrot, the council will offer incentives to enable this to happen and help manage the process.”

He is philosophical about Myer’s decision to leave Fremantle, reasoning the move opens more doors than it closes.

“The end of the 40-year lease came at a very challenging time for department stores, when the future of retail was, and still is, being questioned,” he said.

“Certainly when a store like this leaves there is a sense of crisis.

“But out of crisis always comes opportunity, and I think this is Fremantle’s chance to totally rethink how it does retail, and then move forward.”

Topics: urban-development-and-planning, fremantle-6160

First posted Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:42pm AEDT

Great video on interactive skate plazas – ideal for Freo perhaps?

Andrew Sullivan just sent around this excellent video.

When skateboarders / place makers / filmmakers Tim Yuen and Mat de Koning (2011 WA Young Filmmaker of the Year) were unsatisfied with the generic skate facilities that segregated skaters from the public spaces, they succeeded in finding a way of bringing their hobby into the public realm by consolidating public art and recreational activity.

I think this is a model that will work well for Esplanade Park and what we are working towards.

Special Council Meeting – Kings Square project

The Kings Square project will potentially cross another hurdle this Monday night (11.2 at 6pm)  when the Fremantle Council will have a Special Council meeting to consider what has the potential to be the biggest urban renewal project Fremantle has ever undertaken.

We have worked very hard on getting this project right and I am increasingly of the view that this project is going to be key if we are to make revitalize the Fremantle CBD and get more diverse retail and good jobs back into Fremantle .

The report is on the web but here is the Executive Summary

Council adopted a draft business plan in November 2012 for the sale and redevelopment of a number of properties in the Kings Square precinct. In accordance with the Local Government Act requirements, the plan was advertised for public comment. A total of 27 submissions have been received and are required to be considered by council. Council may adopt the Business Plan with minor amendments without the need to readvertise. If major amendments are made the Plan is required to be readvertised for a further period of 6 weeks.

The majority of submissions made comment on 2 key matters:

1. Urban design issues relating to the opening of Newman court to vehicular traffic and the perceived loss of public and/or green space in Kings Square;

2. The building architecture as shown in the images in the Business Plan.

Whilst council has adopted Urban Design Guidelines for Kings Square, the issue of traffic in Newman court will need to be resolved separately to this process as the Guidelines provide flexibility on this matter. Detailed design of the public realm spaces will need to be undertaken once council decides to proceed with the redevelopment proposals.

To address the many concerns about the architecture, it is suggested by officers that council give consideration to conducting an architectural competition for its proposed new library, visitor centre, civic centre and administration building. Details of the conduct of such a competition will be the subject of separate report to council through the Planning Services Committee.

A summary of submissions is included in Attachment 1 together with a suggested brief response to each matter raised. A more detailed written response will be provided to each submitter following the council’s determination of submissions.

Council is now required to determine whether it will adopt the Business Plan with or without amendment, or not adopt the plan.


Fremantle Allows Art Graffiti on Radio National

The hype and sensationalism over the recent Graffiti/Street Art policy here a Freo Council was a bit challenging so it was very refreshing to have a sensible adult conversation about it on Radio National this morning. The interviewer was from Melbourne and it was interesting how our policy seemed so common sense in this debate.You can listen to it here:

“Hosier Lane is one of Melbourne’s most famous graffiti alleyways with an ever-changing gallery of tags, tributes and stencils. It’s also a major tourist draw card, a fact that hasn’t been missed by other Australian cities, especially Fremantle. In fact, that city has just adopted a new graffiti- friendly policy. From now on, Fremantle council officers will no longer remove anything considered to be art. The man behind the new policy is the Mayor of Fremantle, Brad Pettitt. But one person’s street art is another’s person’s vandalism and the new policy has drawn the ire of the state’s Graffiti Taskforce and the police.”

courtesy of Love Freo

courtesy of Love Freo

Closure of Myer in Fremantle does not signal the beginning of the end for the port city -urban planning expert Marcus Westbury

Marcus Westbury is one of my favourite urban planning experts and here is what he had to say about Freo this week:

Mr Westbury, founder of Renew Australia, has been heralded as the saviour of Newcastle in New South Wales after his revitalisation project brought new life to the city.

Mr Westbury, who will speak at an urban planning forum in Perth this week, said there were parallels that could be drawn between Newcastle and the struggling city of Fremantle.

“In Newcastle we had a David Jones which was the largest department store in that part of town,” he said.

“It closed about three or four years ago, but the vacancy rates have actually improved dramatically since then.

“It’s the exact opposite of what everyone said was going to happen.”

Mr Westbury said rather than a death sentence for Newcastle, the departure of David Jones made room for a diverse range of stores, which led to more pedestrian traffic in the area.

He said he had already been contacted by residents and the City of Fremantle expressing interest in learning more about the Renew Newcastle project, as well as from other cities, including Geraldton.

Mr Westbury said high rents and inflexible lease arrangements often prevented small, creative ventures from getting off the ground.

But while a lack of interest in moving into the area was also a factor in other cities he had worked in, he said he did not think that was the case in Perth.

“It’s more that the long-term expectations are really high, but in the short term they are not necessarily able to be met,” he said.

“And so places sit empty waiting for that big thing that’s going to come next.”

The Centre for Economic Development of Australia forum will be held at Crown Perth on Wednesday.

End of Myer