Ceremony marks start of construction on new Fremantle Civic Centre and Library

A sod turning ceremony at Kings Square this morning has marked the start of construction on the City of Fremantle’s new civic centre and library.

The $41.3 million project is part of the broader $270 million Kings Square Renewal project – a joint initiative of the City of Fremantle and Sirona Capital.

It is a historic day for the City. The Fremantle Town Hall has been standing proudly in Kings Square for well over a hundred years. It’s my hope that a hundred years from now our new civic centre and library building will still be standing alongside it, and will be regarded with the same love and affection.

Our new civic centre and library will be an amazing building, not just for the council but for the whole community.

Less than half the floor space of the building will be taken up by the operations of the City and its staff, with the majority of the building for community facilities and commercial and retail spaces.

It will have a stunning modern library, fully accessible toilets and change facilities, a state-of-the-art information and customer service centre, a wide range of community meeting rooms and gallery and exhibition spaces integrated with the Town Hall.

It will also be one of the most energy efficient buildings of its size in Australia and showcase a wide array of sustainability features.

But most importantly, it will bring people back to the civic heart of Fremantle and make Kings Square a safer, more attractive and vibrant space.

The new civic centre and library was designed by the internationally renowned Fremantle firm Kerry Hill Architects and will be built by WA construction company Pindan.

Pindan Managing Director George Allingame said it was very special to be involved in such a landmark project.

“Even though I have been in the construction business for over forty years, I really enjoy moments like these,” Mr Allingame said.

“I would like to thank Mayor Pettitt and the City of Fremantle for entrusting Pindan with this project, and I would also like to commend Kerry Hill Architects for designing such a magnificent building.

“We are excited to help bring this stunning new civic centre and library to the City of Fremantle and I look forward to being back here together for the official opening in mid-2020.”

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk represented the Premier at the ceremony.

“Today marks a turning point for Kings Square and the Fremantle CBD,” Ms McGurk said.

“The new civic centre will be an open, sustainable and community-oriented space in the heart of Fremantle.

“Combined with the state government’s relocation of over 1500 public servants to Fremantle, it will inject new life into Kings Square and the local economy.”

For more information about the Kings Square Renewal project visit the Kings Square Fremantle website


Kerry Hill Architect’s Sean McGivern, Sirona Capital’s Matthew McNeilly, George Allingame from Pindan, Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk and Mayor Brad Pettitt turn the first sod of the City of Fremantle’s new civic centre and library.

This is Fremantle’s new brand

The City of Fremantle has launched a bold new marketing brand designed to attract more visitors and reinforce Fremantle’s status as a major tourism destination.

The ‘This is Fremantle’ brand was unveiled to a gathering of state government ministers, tourism industry officials and local business representatives at the WA Maritime Museum last night.

The new brand highlights Fremantle’s vibrancy and culture, and also captured Fremantle’s proudly independent spirit.

Fremantle is different and we make no apologies for that – it’s why people love it.

This new brand and the campaign to come is a reminder to everyone that Fremantle is an important tourism asset that attracts visitors from around the world, so it should be leveraged to market the whole state.

Fremantle is in the middle of a period of unprecedented investment in new hotels, new residential and retail spaces and new hospitality offerings, so now is the right time to be launching a new brand and visual identity for the city.

The $270 million Kings Square redevelopment will see new shopping, dining and entertainment options come on line by the end of the year which will add to our already vibrant and diverse city centre.”

The new brand is the culmination of a six month project delivered by the City of Fremantle, the City’s Destination Marketing Working Group and award-winning creative agency Juicebox.

Working Group chair Linda Wayman said the ‘This is Fremantle’ brand not only emphasised the city’s colour and fun, but also reflected the growing maturity in Fremantle’s tourism offering.

“The new brand is a bold and contemporary stake in the ground that echoes the spirit, soul and intimate connection to the sea that Fremantle is famous for,” Ms Wayman said.

“Fremantle has a reputation for its artistic, creative and laid-back nature, but we wanted to capture the sophistication and polish that now exists within our city’s high-end boutique retail, fine dining, craft beer and hospitality scene.”

The ‘This is Fremantle’ brand will be incorporated into all of the City of Fremantle’s destination marketing materials like maps, brochures and event programs and featured in new banners and signage throughout the city.

The City’s Fremantle Story and Visit Fremantle websites will be merged to create a one-stop-shop for visitor information, and social media platforms will be updated in line with the new brand.

Six short videos have been produced for television, internet and social media, and will also be shown on the big screens at Optus Stadium during Fremantle Dockers home games.

An advertising campaign utilising billboards, digital platforms and other media will be rolled out next month.

The launch of the new brand has been timed to coincide with the Australian Tourism Exchange being held in Perth next week, where promotional packs including video and images of Fremantle will be distributed to tourism industry buyers from around the world. 

Industry briefing sessions for local businesses are being held at the City of Fremantle over the coming weeks. The City will also be visiting businesses and handing out materials on how they can engage with the new brand.

To watch the ‘This is Fremantle’ videos click here.

To view the new Visit Fremantle website click here.

Support program a boost for Freo business

Small businesses in Fremantle will have access to subsidised training, support and mentoring under a new pilot program being trialled by the City of Fremantle.

The City has appointed independent small business advocates Freo Now and local business support organisation Business Foundations to offer the Business Capacity Building program.

The program will initially be open to up to 40 retail or hospitality, bricks and mortar small businesses based in the City of Fremantle, with the City contributing 80 per cent of the cost.

Business Foundations will provide general business advice and performance assessment services, while Freo Now will offer assistance with sales and promotion and financial management.

At the end of the pilot period, the City will consider extending and broadening the program based on the feedback of businesses and the service providers.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said the capacity building program was designed to give local small businesses a helping hand in a tough economic climate.

“More often than not small business owners are so busy with the day-to-day running of the business that they don’t have time to think about things like updating their book keeping processes or refreshing their online and social media presence,” Mayor Pettitt said.

“And yet, in a time where bricks and mortar retailers around the world are under pressure from online shopping, it can be these things that make or break a business.

“Both Freo Now and Business Foundations have advisors with extensive experience in supporting small businesses and can offer hands-on, practical advice on how to grow your business.”

Scott McAllister from local kitchenware shop The Home Provedore said the business mentoring and support he’d received in the past had proven to be very valuable.

“As a member of Freo Now I’ve had the opportunity to receive business coaching which I’ve found to be extremely helpful,” Mr McAllister said.

“I would encourage all businesses to avail themselves of this initiative.”

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Danicia Quinlan said the chamber supported the program.

“Providing the opportunity for small retailers and venues to leave the daily grind of their business in this challenging market and find new and creative ways to grow their business is so important,” Ms Quinlan said.

“We really welcome this initiative by the City of Fremantle in providing this opportunity”.

Business Foundations is a business support organisation based in Fremantle and has spent more than 25 years providing enterprise development services.

After starting as a business incubator operating out of the Fremantle Prison, they now assist more than 4000 business people a year across Australia.

Freo Now is an independent business advocacy group that also provides business coaching and training and promotes Fremantle small businesses.

To apply for the Business Capacity Building Program visit the Business Capacity Building  page on the City of Fremantle website.


Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, Business Foundations’ Phil Kemp, Chamber of Commerce CEO Danicia Quinlan, Wade Drummond from Leake St. Cafeteria, Scott McAllister from The Home Provedore and Chamber of Commerce President Ivan Dzeba discuss the new Business Capacity Building program.  

Fremantle welcomes Traffic Bridge funding commitment

The City of Fremantle’s vision for the replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

The City of Fremantle has welcomed the bipartisan support for the replacement of the ageing Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the commitment of $115 million towards the replacement of the bridge during a visit to Perth today.

Member for Fremantle Josh Wilson said that commitment would be matched by a federal Labor government should they win the upcoming federal election.

Replacing the traffic bridge with a new one in a similar location was one of the key projects outlined in the City’s ‘Freo 2029 – Transformational Moves’ strategy.

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge is an important northern gateway into Fremantle, but it’s reaching the end of its life as a carriageway for cars and trucks.

Main Roads’ assessment of the bridge is that without significant remedial maintenance it will have to close in the near future.

If that were to happen without a suitable alternative in place it would cause traffic chaos for Fremantle and have a big impact on freight getting to and from the Fremantle Port.

Our plan is for a new bridge to be built between the existing traffic bridge and the rail bridge, and to convert the old bridge into a pedestrian and cycleway.

Another important element of the project is to create a dedicated freight railway line, which would eliminate the current conflict between freight and passenger trains.

A dedicated freight line would allow the port to handle more freight on rail during daylight hours, so we’re very pleased this has been included in the federal government’s announcement.

We look forward to continuing our constructive discussions with the state government to secure a state commitment to this project.

The replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge was recently added to Infrastructure Australia’s list of nationally significant projects as a priority initiative to be delivered in the near term.

Infrastructure Australia said the bridge was at the end of its useable life and at risk of closure, which would increase traffic pressure on the neighbouring Stirling Bridge, worsen travel times and impact on heavy freight access to Fremantle Port.

Revitalising Freo in Challenging Economic Times

The debates on social media forums like Fremantle Massive seem alternate between claims of “Fremantle is dying” to that it is changing and developing too quickly. The truth is, as always, between these two extremes but I thought it worth putting some data and context around the last decade of development in Fremantle.

It is no secret that in the the last decade the Fremantle Council has explicitly focused on attracting more people back into Fremantle to live, work and play.

This focus started with some major changes by the Council to the planning scheme in  central Fremantle to encourage new residential and commercial buildings

Amendment 38 and 49 (the two big ones in the east end and city centre respectively) enabled development certainty and buildings above 3 or 4 floors for the first time. After a major community debate these were finally gazetted by the WA Planning Minister in 2011 and late 2012 respectively. Meaning for the first time Freo had sites that could enable major new developments.

It’d be fair to say that our on this timing wasn’t ideal unfortunately. For a large chunk of the years following these fundamental planning changes the Australian economy and the WA economy in particular has spluttered along.

While Australia’s “per capita recession” might have been in the news recently perhaps less well known is that WA has been in domestic recession for the last 4 years:


As a result WA has had not only the highest unemployment rate in the nation but WA also recently had its highest unemployment rate in 17 years.

The lack of jobs has seen an exodus of people from WA as people head to the East Coast looking for work resulting in declining population growth into WA.

Obviously a further flow on implication of this has been reduced demand for housing resulting in declining house prices.

In fact, Perth is enduring its longest and deepest declines in the housing market since the 1980s, with the West Australian this week stating “prices falling 17.8 per cent since their peak in June 2014 — experts are now warning they may have further to fall.”


I always love Alan Kohler’s graphs on the ABC News finance report and they shows this starkly (apologies for the image quality). Perth (circled) went from having the most expensive house prices in WA in 2007 to the cheapest in 2019! Not great for economic confidence.

And this housing price fall is the steepest…


This has impacted on getting new apartment developments under construction and with it more people moving into the centre of Fremantle.

Pleasingly we have still seen some substantial developments completed in this time from Heirloom to Liv to Knutsford but undoubtedly others would have been under construction more quickly if macro-economic conditions hadn’t been so challenging.

Impacts on retail

As the ABC wrote in early March “Australia’s retailers have started the year where they ended it — in a world of pain

Australian retail sales edged up just 0.1 per cent in January, a much weaker result than expected.  Market economists had expected a rise of 0.4 per cent, if for no other reason than January’s figures were coming off a very poor result in December, where sales fell by 0.4 per cent.

In WA we went further backwards as the ABC showed:


Despite this Fremantle’s retail vacancy rates have been reasonably steady hovering around the low teens (10-13%) for the last five years. Not ideal but not catastrophic either and within the range of other retail strips around Perth:

In summary, Fremantle has been holding its own in the context of some very challenging macro-economic circumstances in WA. In fact we have been attracting investment a record levels (see graph below)

But as they often say that it is all about timing and while some more favourable economic winds would have helped Freo these past few years  I am nevertheless proud of the investment underway. I am even more proud though that Fremantle has the fundamentals in place to ride the next wave of investment. This will bring people back into Freo to live, work and play in a way we haven’t seen for many decades.

Kings Square will be completed in 2020 and 1500 state government workers will move into Fremantle this time next year. As economic activity and population growth in WA picks up as predicted in the next few years I really do believe that Freo’s future is bright.


New life for Freo’s Old Synagogue

A proposal to breathe new life into an iconic Fremantle heritage building has been approved by Fremantle Council’s planning committee.

The plans approved by the committee last night involve converting the old Fremantle Synagogue, on the corner of South Terrace and Parry Street, into a new restaurant and hospitality venue.

It will feature four different offerings on the one site – with a restaurant, multi-level beer garden including a rooftop deck, basement cocktail bar and a casual front bar.

The Synagogue proposal is another example of the adaptive re-use of heritage buildings in Fremantle.

It’s great to see so many developments underway in Fremantle that are not only preserving the wonderful heritage buildings we’re famous for but also putting them to good use and giving people the chance to enjoy them.

In addition to the Synagogue proposal, work has started on the restoration of the Manning Buildings to create new office space in the vacant upper floors and also inject some vitality into Paddy Troy Mall with a new brewhouse and restaurant.

Freo.Social in the Old Drill Hall will be opening soon as a brilliant new music venue, the old Police Station and Courthouse is being transformed into a hotel and so are the Warders Cottages next to the Fremantle Markets.

The old Synagogue is in a very prominent location in Fremantle but has been vacant for a number of decades, so it’s exciting to know something will finally be happening with that site.

It’s another sign of confidence in the city’s future and the private sector’s willingness to invest in Fremantle.

The Old Synagogue was the first synagogue built in Western Australia and is on the State Register of Heritage Places. The redevelopment proposal is supported by the State Heritage Office.

The 117-year-old building operated as a synagogue for only eight years. It has since been used for a variety of purposes including an auction mart, rug shop, clothing outlet, art gallery and a cafe.

Following last night’s approval by the Council’s planning committee the proponent is now required to make an application to the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor for an appropriate liquor licence.

City welcomes Victoria Quay steering group

Fremantle Ports waterfront manager Franco Adreone with Minister for Ports Alannah MacTiernan, Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk and Deputy Mayor Ingrid Waltham at Victoria Quay.

The City of Fremantle has welcomed the formation of a new senior steering group to drive the redevelopment of Victoria Quay.

The steering group, which met for the first time on Friday, is chaired by Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk and includes the City’s Mayor and Chief Executive Officer along with representatives of Fremantle Ports, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, Landcorp, Tourism WA, Westport Taskforce, Department of Transport, Department of Planning and the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

Victoria Quay represents a golden opportunity to create a spectacular waterfront attraction for WA.

The City of Fremantle has been pushing for the redevelopment of Victoria Quay for some years now, so we really appreciate the state government supporting this through the formation of the steering group to drive the project forward.

We think there are great opportunities to transform Victoria Quay into a world class waterfront precinct – with a mix of retail, hospitality and commercial businesses – and also create better connections between the port and places like Kings Square, the Cappuccino Strip, the West End and Bathers Beach.

The building blocks for a terrific precinct are already there with the Maritime Museum, the E-shed and other heritage sheds, the Passenger Terminal and the Rottnest ferry terminal, along with easy public transport access with the railway station.

The steering group’s brief includes examining the range of land uses in identified ‘precincts’ on the site, the needs of the working port and how to better link the Fremantle CBD to Victoria Quay, across the rail line.

Any waterfront planning will be in line with the ongoing work of the Westport Taskforce, which is examining Western Australia’s future port and environs needs.

Read the state government media statement about the steering group’s first meeting here.