New strategy and incentives adopted for getting attracting new businesses to Freo.

It was a big meeting on Wednesday night with the finish  well after 11pm. One of the items of importance that passed without too much fanfare was an innovative new strategy aimed at attracting desirable new small businesses to Fremantle. Freo is pretty good at attracting new cafes etc (in fact a dozen new businesses have open in the last 6 months) but we need to ensure we also keep our retail diversity so you can once again get almost everything you need in Freo. This new strategy and incentives will help do that.

The three–pronged approach will be executed in one of three ways:

1.   The City may provide a one–off rate discount up to 33% of annual rates to property owners who lease property at ground level to eligible businesses that add value (and diversity) to the overall Fremantle offering. Rate discounts must be passed onto the new tenant in a direct financial manner such as (but not limited to) a rent–free period, reduced rent or reduced outgoings.

2.   The City may provide a one–off cash incentive of up to a maximum of $10 000 to eligible businesses that meet this policy’s criteria and are committed by a signed commercial lease agreement within a property in the City’s local government area.

3.   Vacant council–owned properties may be offered to eligible businesses at a discounted lease up to $10 000 below market rates for one year.

Eligible businesses cannot receive more than one of the items. Eligible businesses are defined as those that add value to the Fremantle’s overall offering by bringing something unique to the city that will attract more people to Fremantle.

Background

In recent years, the City has worked towards implementing the City of Fremantle Economic Development Strategy 2011–15 and the recommendations of the Fremantle Retail Model Plan 2010. While achievements have been made to facilitate improvement in Fremantle’s retail sector, such as the establishment of the Fremantle BID, additional efforts are required to continue to build on this momentum and to attract new high–value businesses to Fremantle that attract more people.

One economic development priority for the City for the coming 18 months is small business attraction and retention. This involves attracting and retaining unique small businesses that add to the overall appeal of Fremantle as a place to visit. A business attraction policy has been drafted to help achieve this goal. The draft policy has the following objectives:

  • Support the effective implementation of the City of Fremantle Economic Development Strategy 2010–15 and the Fremantle Retail Model Plan 2010.
  • Proactively incentivise and accelerate the attraction of businesses that add value to Fremantle’s offering as a visitor destination and generate benefits for its residents, workers, visitors and the business community in the long–term by improving Fremantle’s overall appeal.
  • Encourage eligible population–driven businesses (mainly retail and hospitality) to sign long–term leases for properties within the City’s local government area.
  • Encourage local property owners and leasing agents to attract those key businesses that fit Fremantle’s distinctive character and appeal, and add to its overall value proposition for visitors.

Council votes to resubmit plastic bag reduction law

Council last night agreed to resubmit a local law which will ban single–use non–biodegradable plastic bags being provided by retailers in Fremantle.

The move to resubmit the local law came after legal advice to determine a pathway forward on plastic bag reduction after the first attempt was disallowed by the State Government on a technicality – a mandatory ten cent charge.

So the only substantive changes are that the law will no longer require retailers to charge a minimum fee of 10 cents for each alternative shopping bag provided to shoppers

The City will now undergo another full advertising and comment period, and will develop a full marketing and communications strategy around the local law.

So please have your say. I think this is a great initiative that had its origins in Plastic Free Freo community group to reduce the 4 billion plastic bags that Australians use each year.

Background

The local law was originally advertised from the 16 October 2012, closing 6 December 2012 after it was adopted by council. Significant support for the local law was received during the advertising period, with over 65% of submissions in favour of the local law being enacted.

The City had created a marketing strategy around the local law and proposed a ‘hard start’ date of the 21 August 2013. This official launch date was unable to be observed due to the local law not having been considered by the Joint Standing Committee / Parliament. This caused some issues with retailers who had been preparing for this date.

The local law was disallowed on October 2013 and the Plastic Bag Free City Working Group came together in November 2013 to consider the next steps and decided to seek legal advice on the reports. Following legal advice and learning from past experience it was recommended that no ‘hard start date’ should be imposed on retailers and community consultation should be undertaken through the transition process.

Additionally the City is working with The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) and its delegated committee Municipal Waste Advisory Committee (MWAC) to ensure that, during this process, other local governments are given the means to submit an identical local law and to support the advocacy process around this campaign.

The competing visions for Freo’s future

Linley Lutton’s recent talk demonstrated at its heart two competing visions for Freo’s future.

As the Fremantle Herald and many of blogs have reported – at the heart of Mr Lutton’s talk was that Fremantle isn’t broken and that the Fremantle Council shouldn’t be trying to change or fix things too much.

I fundamentally disagree. In contrast to the view that “nothing really is broken and nothing needs urgently fixing”, the Council’s deliberate position over the past four and a half years is that change was urgently needed to arrest the alarming trends emerging since the early 1990’s of falling numbers of workers and residents in the city centre (in contrast to regular growth in other comparable centres such as Subiaco). Jobs in the Fremantle CBD were decreasing (especially well paying jobs) and vacant floorspace including retail was increasing. Fundamentally the Council (and the community I believe) agreed that a low density of workers and residents does not make a safe, prosperous and lively city centre.

When I became Mayor  four and a bit years ago Freo was in seriously danger of losing its second city status and its position in the metro area activity centre hierarchy. Amendment 49 and the sale and redevelopment of the City owned Point St and Kings Square properties are some of the key initiatives that have resulted from the strategy to increase the numbers of people living and working in the city centre.

The amendment also introduced provisions to achieve broader residential diversity and increased affordable housing. Using the commonly accepted indicator for housing affordability which is medium house value being no more than 3 times median annual household income (i.e. a ratio of 3.0), every suburb in the City of Fremantle except Hilton is in the top 40 LEAST affordable suburbs in the whole metropolitan Perth area. Beaconsfield is 17th least affordable (ratio of 12.3), South Fremantle 19th (ratio 12.1) and Fremantle 37th (ratio 10.4). Housing in Fremantle CBD is less affordable than in Perth CBD. Even Hilton is 46th least affordable suburb in the metro area!

On diversity, 69% of City of Fremantle’s population comprises one or two person households, but only 38% of the housing stock comprises one or two bedroom dwellings.

All of this backs up what we already know – there’s a lot to do to “fix” housing affordability and diversity in Fremantle. Just as there is a lot to do to make Freo a more vibrant city.

Mr Lutton’s preference might be for a Fremantle that slowly drifts towards been an increasingly expensive and quiet dormitory suburb for the privileged few who can afford to live in it with some bonus tourists on the weekends but I was elected to ensure the exact opposite happens to Freo.

I promised to do everything I could to make Fremantle more vibrant, affordable, sustainable and economically strong and diverse. This is a promise I plan to keep.

“How art helped reclaim the city streets” – art, anti-social behaviour and the J-Shed proposal

 There was a very interesting article in the West Australian today on pages 6 and 7 called “How art helped reclaim the city streets” talking about the link between arts, culture and safer public places.

Inspector Craig Parkin the officer in charge of Perth Station said they didn’t need any extra police resources as a result of many thousands of extra people at Fringe World or the Perth International Arts Festival. He said “We get a lot more people into the city but the demographics are generally of those who don’t have to deal with from a policing perspective”

He goes on to say that

..“continued arts investment was a proactive way to enliven the city make it less attractive for people looking to start trouble”

“There is a different feel within the city and you can just sense that when you’re out and about in the streets”

This has some interesting and important relevance to the current J-Shed debate in Fremantle.

If we can get it right and make sure this new venue is arts focused one (like the Fringe Festival etc) then the evidence is that it will work in decreasing anti-social behaviour  – not add to it as is the fear of many residents and others who have opposed the Sunset events proposal.

The best approach is getting rid of anti-social behaviour in my view is getting more sensible people back out on the streets Fremantle at all hours. Frankly, it is about outnumbering the idiots and setting new standards for good behaviour so the idiots don’t feel comfortable or welcome.

This will no doubt be part of the debate both Monday and Wednesday night as to whether the Sunset proposal can help the City do that.

 

Monday the 24th  is the Electors Meeting Agenda the Town Hall on the J Shed Lease

         6.30pm  for registration – bring ID if you want to vote

         7pm start with 15 minute presentation by the CEO on current state of play/business plan.

         Questions, Statements and Motions

The item will then go to Full Council on Wednesday the 26th for a decision.

The agenda item on the issue can be found under the current Fremantle Council agenda at

http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/cityoffremantle/Agendas_and_minutes

Art and fringe

 

 

Local Government Reform Video

Below is a video produced by the City of Kwinana with input from the cities of Freo and Melville that has just been released publicly. It has also been sent directly to the Local Government Advisory Board for consideration.

The video shows why the state government proposal is logical and workable. The ‘community of interest’ and ‘activity centre’ arguments are well explained. Enjoy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJqJdbcHvbE&feature=youtu.be

FREMANTLE CARNEVALE ‘FESTIVAL OF MISRULE’ TO HIT FREO END OF THIS MONTH

Fremantle’s annual ‘Festival of Misrule’ is back in a blaze of colour, sound and Carnevale high jinx February 28 and March 1st.

The sixth annual ‘Carnevale of the People’s Republic of Fremantle’ kicks off at Fremantle Markets at 7:30pm Friday 28 February with a vibrant Carnevale Opening Night Parade along Cappuccino Strip led by the WASAMBA Carnevale band and this year’s samba-dancing Queen of Carnevale. Carnevale reaches its spectacular climax in the Carnevale

Masked Costume Ball at Victoria Hall (Saturday 1 March, 8pm till late), in a homage to Latin American Carnival, featuring headline act Victoria Newton and Funky Brasilia. (Carnevale costume and mask compulsory or mandatory face painting on entry!).
Bookings: http://www.trybooking.com/EHQZ

Festivities will be presided over by this year’s mystery King of Carnevale, to be announced on Opening Night (previous incumbents have included Alan Jones, Wilson Tuckey, Julian Assange and former City of Cockburn Mayor Stephen Lee).
Carnevale is an annual community festival held in many parts of the world including Latin America, Europe, New Orleans and India, which signals a ‘farewell to the flesh’ before the 40-day period of Lenten abstinence and repentance imposed on Carnevale revellers by the Catholic Church.

For a short time, Carnevale ‘turns the world on its head’ through masquerade, cross-dressing, mockery of authority and transgression of the normal social and gender order.

VIVA CARNEVALE!

2014 Carnevale

Some thoughts on the Sunset J-Shed Proposal

Over the next few weeks you will probably hear a fair bit of public debate about the Sunset Events proposal for J-Shed as it will come to Council this month for decision.

I thought it is worth exploring some of the main issues and providing a bit of background on some of the more controversial bits. I hope you find it helpful or at least thought-provoking.

Size of the venue, alfresco and concert area

This is without a doubt the most controversial part of the plan for many. It would be fair to say that when the Fremantle Council first went out with an EOI on this that we weren’t anticipating something this big.  That said, the Sunset proposal was clearly the best option presented but in the interests of openness and transparency the Fremantle Council thought it important to readvertise this bigger proposal through the business planning process that we are now about to vote on.

Originally the Sunset proposal was for a more than1000 person venue over 2018m2. After some modifications it was advertised in the business plan as around 850 people over 1508m2. There is also a plan for 10 -15 ticketed concerts a year that would expand to the bigger footprint

While I personally have no problem with the concert numbers (for example the Fremantle Arts Centre South Lawn does about 12 concerts a year of over 3000 people very well and these would only be half that size at 1500 people), it would be no surprise to say that the Council and I have been looking at ways the numbers for the other 350 days a year could be further reduced – both in terms of the venue footprint and maximum patron numbers.

There is no magic number but it is about trying to get the right balance between community amenity, activation and commercial viability. This will be fully debated over coming weeks in and outside of the Fremantle Council chamber as we try to get this balance right but my sense is that something around the size of the Norfolk or around half the size of Little Creatures (400-500 people) feels right to me but I am keeping an open mind.

J shed proposal

Length of lease

The lease is for 21 years which I appreciate is a long time. But the reason for this is that currently the J-shed is only fit for storage and requires significant and expensive upgrades to water power and other services to make it useable for anything else.

There are two options at this point. Either the City of Fremantle pays for the upgrades or we get a new tenant to pay for them and they are able to recoup the costs as part of this proposal through a longer lease. Given the range of demands on the City of Fremantle budget at the moment the officers have recommended the latter.

Heritage

A key issue is that this is obviously in an area that is one of the most significant areas in terms WA’s history and heritage.

It would be fair to say that most the lease area is where a large cliff once stood before it was chopped up to make Fremantle Port. So in summary that any white history in the proposed lease area is either long gone or buried well under the ground and what is visible is mostly just rough interpretations that could be done a whole lot better. So the advice I have is that there are not any significant white heritage issues. Like many Councillors I’d like a clearer sense from local Noongar elders and their views of the area’s heritage and its significance from an indigenous perspective.

Arts focused venue

For me it is vitally important that the venue is focussed on multi-arts activities – it can’t just be another pub. We have enough of those already!

So one of the challenges over the next two weeks will be locking down an agreement to ensure this is an arts and music venue that is both an attractor to the Arthurs Head Arts Hub and also provides a new venue for visual arts, as an incubator for emerging artists, local musicians (no cover bands!), performance as well as a gallery and sculpture exhibition space.

Done well this could be a great addition to the arts mix in Fremantle.

Clear pedestrian route to Victoria Quay.

Care needs to be taken to ensure that any westward part of the new leasehold area doesn’t limit the opportunity to develop a clear pedestrian route from Bathers Beach to the TAFE link through the Slip Street precinct. Consideration also needs to be given to whether the final location of such a pathway is capable of provide clear and unobstructed access to the existing front doors of the other J- Shed tenancies.

Once again done well there is a great opportunity to improve the linkages from Bathers Beach to Victoria Quay. Done badly it will further constrain these.

Alcohol policy

There have been some claims on the blogs that the Sunset proposal is in contradiction to the City of Fremantle policy on licensed venues which we passed last year. For those that haven’t seen it the new policy states:

“A general presumption in favour of development of small bars …[and]… A general presumption against large or high risk licensed premises in the City centre trading past 1am”

This is a good new policy and the Fremantle Council will continue to strongly advocate for more small bars so we get a better, safer, more mature drinking environment in Fremantle. But to be clear we never said we would not agree to a new larger venue. For us to it needs to close earlier and attract the right kind of clientele and be in the right location. I think this is in the right location and as the Director of Liquor Licensing said in a recent approval of a small bar application for Fremantle’s west end:

“The Commissioner of Police contends that the existing licensed premises in Fremantle already cater for the demand for licensed premises. I do not consider this statement to be correct in relation to the West End precinct of Fremantle. I accept the applicant’s submission that the West End has lost licensed premises and is in need of revitalising”.

It is the revitalising of this part of Fremantle that is at the heart of this proposal but for it to be supported we need to be sure it will be done well and get the overall balance right. There is probably plenty of changes and debate to go and I’d be happy to hear your feedback to make sure we get it right if we choose to proceed.