Debating the J Shed.
October 7, 2015 13 Comments
Last night we debated the temporary approval at J Shed at great length – finishing the meeting at close to midnight. This long meeting with a full gallery gave rise to a bit of a feeling of déjà vu. Just before the last Local Government election there was a lot of negative noise about the Youth Plaza on the Esplanade.
Two years on, the debate around temporary activation of the J Shed had a similar ring. Perhaps that is because both projects are about enhancing and bringing people to underutilized parts of central Fremantle while providing greater amenity for a range residents and visitors. The fears were kind of similar too: anti-social behaviour, noise, use of green space and heritage.
So I thought it worth looking at some of these issues in more detail:
Like the Youth Plaza I don’t believe fears around the J-Shed and anti-social behaviour will be realised. It is a lack of people that most often leads to a lack of safety and anti-social behaviour. Having more people walking through the West End to Bathers Beach and J Shed will ultimately make this area safer than the ghost town it too often is today.
J Shed as a Music Venue
The temporary approval is also for 12 concerts over the next year of up to 1000 people. Is this really too much for the Fremantle inner-city residential population to manage? I think not.
For example, the Fremantle Arts Centre also runs 12 major concerts a year but these have up to 3400 people attend. We have great support from residents in that area. The Fremantle Arts Centre also has other events like the summer music series on Sunday afternoons and openings. I believe the J Shed offers another part of the mix of music venues Fremantle needs to keep its place as a key centre for music in WA.
Fremantle already has a good range of smaller music venues like Odd fellows (aka Norfolk Basement), the soon to be relaunched Kulcha Space, and other pubs (eg Newport) that cater for around 100-200 music punters. The new Fly by Night Musicians Club in Victoria Hall will cater for around 250 people and the Drill Hall (former Fly) around 500 people and then we have the Fremantle Arts Centre South Lawn of 3400.
What is missing is an in between space of around 700-1500 for acts that are at this point in their career. What we have seen is they have gone to other parts of the metro area as Fremantle is not an option. The J Shed as performance venue will offer a special space with limited residential impact.
Stealing the Markets?
The other unsubstantiated and inaccurate claim circulating is that there is a plan to steal to the Sunset Markets that are planning to move to South Beach. I have checked with both sides of the argument on this and all are comfortable with the concept for around half a dozen stalls to be able to serve the up to 400 patrons at J Shed. There will not be a rival food market at the J Shed.
Loss of Green Space?
Finally despite the claims of some (and reminiscent of claims around the skate park) there will be no loss of green space to enable access. Nor will vehicles come through the whalers tunnel. I am confident that the City of Fremantle can reach a sensible way forward with Fremantle Ports on access in the longer term and there are other low impact ways of getting people and good in if need be.
City of Fremantle Heritage Department has reviewed the proposal and has said
“The proposed works are supported, subject to conditions including interpretation of the heritage of the area that is better than what is there now. Similarly the State Heritage Office has said: “the built alterations and additions to J-Shed and the surrounding area are simple in design and sympathetic in nature”.
What hasn’t come through in the recent debate is that the new plans are actually of a more modest scale with a far lighter touch than those proposed a few years ago including no extension to the J Shed’s building as was originally planned.
So back to that déjà vu feeling. I understand that new projects like the Youth Plaza and the J Shed can cause an understandable anxiety for some as they can be perceived as significant changes in their neighbourhood. But like two years ago with the Youth Plaza, I am confident that the concerns around J Shed will fade on its opening in exactly the same way everyone’s worst fears faded away when the Youth Plaza opened. Like the Youth Plaza the J Shed will be seen as another unique Fremantle asset. One to be celebrated – not loathed.