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

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

  1. Great read – he is certainly onto something.

    I worked at Myer several years before I left to go to Uni and new ventures – I gave the shopper the experience that everyone, or most, look for when they go into a store. I got to know the customer and when we weren’t busy, had time to have a chat to them. From my experience through talking to the diversity of shopper that entered Myer Fremantle, many were either just passing through when something ‘caught their eye’, were visiting Freo over the weekend, worked close to the store, bringing purchases back from other Myer stores!, or there on a holiday, not that many were regular local customers. OK some were sure, but not that many. I remember checking out the cosmetics clientele record cards and many local customers had not been in store for several years!

    My point is that Myer, as we all know, was not doing that well for a long time and take it from me, who worked there, the only people to kill Myer Fremantle was Myer Fremantle themselves. Not the staff, we had it hard to try and look after a store that had hardly any staff, (I remember being the only staff member to look after 13 cosmetics counters at once, lol, even I’m not that awesome 🙂 ) but it was the management that failed the store. I see it as no real loss to Freo that Myer has gone, thankfully the staff have been relocated to other stores.

    What is important for a city to succeed in my view, isn’t just one huge department store, it is a high variety of high street retail stores where people have plenty of choice (high street brands at average, affordable prices). It’s a no brainer. Urban density is an even more importance source of economic advantage. In dense and compact cities, service industries such as retail, art and entertainment activities, fine restaurants etc compete fiercely, so they innovate and thrive as a result of this. This is the recipe for a well cooked, nice tasting city.
    Just my opinion 🙂

  2. Shy says:

    Doesn’t signal the end?! DOESN’T SIGNAL THE END?! Preposterous, mister mayor! The august retail halls of Myer DEFINED us as Fremantellians, do you not realise?! Now they are gone, we shall wallow — WALLOW, y’hear me?! — in a decade of misery and confusion about where we are to purchase our slightly-posh work clothes. And it’s all your fault!

    Or something.

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