Customs House Development Proposal

I (like just about everyone else in Fremantle) got my first glimpse at a new proposal for the former Customs House this week (see below). I am not surprised that this is scheme that has already divided community opinion.

Some have even said that it shouldn’t even be considered but that is not how the way the planning system works, however. Instead the City of Fremantle is required to process any lawful planning application and send it to the Fremantle Council and the Joint Development Assessment Panel (DAP) for consideration. So just because we are putting it out for advertising doesn’t mean the City of Fremantle planning staff or the Fremantle Council or DAP will support it going ahead. This is just the legally required process.

Another part of the legally required process is that like all of the Fremantle Council members must keep an open mind and not determine a view until it is debated in the Fremantle Council chambers. So I will do that.

All that said, it is important to note a few facts:

First, the buildings in question only remaining heritage are their façades. The rest was gutted in the 1980s when facadism was sadly considered acceptable. The internal additions from this period can certainly be improved on.

Second, five stories in the West End is not something that complies with Fremantle Council policy for this important area and the Council recently rejected it on the Notre Dame site on High Street on this basis.

Third, the whole of the West End is also now on the State Heritage List adding another level of scrutiny and protection.

Finally, it is really important that you have your say too so please do that by going to:

A community information session will be held on 27 April from 5.30 pm – 6.00 pm in the City of Fremantle Reception Room.

$3.1m Fremantle Town Hall restorations nearing completion

With conservation works nearing completion, scaffolding will gradually be removed over the coming weeks to reveal the Fremantle Town Hall’s exterior in all its original splendour – much as it looked 130 years ago in 1887 when first unveiled.

The  $3.1m works—which began in May 2016 and were extended into this year after specialist contractors found additional critical restoration work was required—included major structural repairs, a new slate roof with improved drainage and the refurbishment of the clock, which was taken apart to be cleaned and serviced.

The town hall restoration project is the largest conservation project we’ve ever undertaken and is the first stage in the transformation of Kings Square.

Throughout the restoration we’ve been very careful to respect the original intention for the town hall to look like a high-quality, finely-detailed stone building. This has involved removing the external paint which has been slowly suffocating the town hall since the 1960s to reveal its unique stucco finish, with natural variations in colour and texture that form part of this.

The end result will see the town hall not only look like it did in 1887, but also function like it was intended to, with the walls being able to ‘breathe’ again for the first time in decades to absorb and then expel moisture and salt.

It may look a bit different than what we’re used to seeing in modern times, but up until 1965 this is what people would have known the town hall as looking like. By doing this vital work we’ve ensured the town hall will be around for the next 130 years and beyond for future generations to enjoy.

This is another key part of our commitment to conserving and sensitively adapting Fremantle’s heritage buildings to underpin our future as a vibrant 21st century city where heritage and modern buildings coexist and complement each other.

About the town hall restoration

Before current restorative works were undertaken it had been almost thirty years since the last major capital expenditure on the Fremantle Town Hall.

Since mid-2016 a large team of skilled stonemasons, plasterers, lead workers and slate roofers with specialist traditional skills have transformed the exterior of the town hall building using traditional building methods.

Key elements such as the roof cladding and drainage systems needed to be replaced urgently to protect the building from ongoing deterioration prevent the loss of culturally significant features and address concerns about public safety.

Gutters and downpipes were too small to cope with current extreme weather events and have led to ongoing damage to the interior of the building. These elements have all been enlarged.

There were also ongoing issues caused by inappropriate surface treatments and repairs to masonry elements carried out in the1950s–60s. At this time there was little understanding of best practice conservation which had unfortunately led to the ongoing deterioration of masonry, embedded steel and timbers and decorative stucco work in the town hall.

During the works, it was discovered some inaccessible parts of the building were in worse condition than expected and extra works were required. To prevent further deterioration of the building and to make use of scaffolding already in place for the current restoration works, it was more efficient and cost effective to complete these additional works now.


Kings Square in 1971

This amazing photo of Kings Square looking East down High Street from around 1971 today was shown to me today by Bernard Seeber. Fascinatingly different.


WA Heritage Awards finalists with Fremantle Well Represented in the Conservation and Adaptive Reuse Category

Heritage Council Chair Anne Arnold 2017 today announced the WA Heritage Awards finalists in the 25th year of the awards

The awards honour the leading contributors to heritage conservation, adaptive reuse, promotion, tourism and interpretation in WA.

Conservation and adaptive reuse finalists include one of Fremantle’s largest renewal projects, the former Dalgety Wool Stores which has been transformed into Heirloom by Match, the stunning restoration of West End’s Wilhelmsen House, St Georges Terrace’s Palace Hotel, and the former fire-ravaged Guildford Hotel which has risen from the ashes to become a popular entertainment venue. The full list in this category is:

Conservation or Adaptive Reuse of a State Registered Place
•    Fmr Artillery Barracks & Fremantle Harbour Signal Stn (Gunners’ Cottages), Fremantle
•    Fmr Coogee Hotel and Post Office
•    Fmr Dalgety Wool Stores (Heirloom by Match), Fremantle
•    Gallop House, Dalkeith
•    Guildford Hotel
•    Hillcrest, North Fremantle
•    Lesmurdie Group (St Brigid’s Cottage)
•    Old Perth Boys’ School, Perth
•    Palace Hotel, Perth
•    Wilhelmsen House, Fremantle

The winners will be announced on 26 May at the former Royal WA Institute of the Blind in Maylands, now home to the WA Ballet, which won the 2013 Excellence in Adaptive Reuse Award.heirloom

Inside the Heirloom Woolstores Redevelopment

They are 85% sold and 99% complete. The first of the residents will move into the 180-odd apartments in January.

A few of us got a sneak peak inside this week.


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It was great today to speak at the launch of the new Fremantle Sea Rescue operations centre at Cantonment Hill Signal Station with Josh Wilson, DFES Assistant Commissioner Garry Gifford, and Cam McMillan, President of the Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue Group.

Fremantle Sea Rescue has been making boating safer for over 40 years with 100 active volunteers manning the boats and monitoring radios 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

They are one of the most iconic organisations in Freo, and symbolise some of the best things about our city – our connection with the sea and our community spirit.

They are one of the busiest marine rescue groups in the country – and certainly the busiest in WA, covering the ocean between South Fremantle and City Beach out past Rottnest, plus all the navigable waters of the Swan and Canning Rivers.

They also undertake over 600 rescues a year – many minor, but some life threatening or ending with the loss of life.

It’s an important job and one that requires an adequate home.

The opening of the Operations Centre at Cantonment Hill provides a significantly better base for radio operations and will also act as a home for administration.

I’m sure having one of the best views of Fremantle won’t hurt either. The City is proud to support the Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue Group and have them here on Cantonment Hill.

In years to come, this historically significant area will be transformed into an attractive and accessible community space and striking entry point in Fremantle, thanks to support from Lotterywest through a $2.2m funding grant.

The restoration and activation of the signal station is one of the first stages of this milestone Cantonment Hill project managed by the City of Fremantle and I look forward to seeing it progress, with the Fremantle Volunteer Sea Rescue Group at its heart.

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Freo’s West End Largest Single Place to be Included in the State Heritage Register

It has been another very big week for Freo. In fact I can confidently say this has been one of the most satisfying weeks in my time as Mayor. On the back on the transformative Kings Square project, I felt especially proud and pleased with the State Listing of Fremantle’s amazing West End. These two projects side by side powerfully demonstrate Fremantle is both encouraging quality new investment AND protecting and promoting the wonderful heritage assets we have like never before.

Fremantle’s West End this week, became the largest single place to be included in the State Register of Heritage Places and it covers nearly 200,000sqm and features 250 buildings, many embodying the exuberance of the gold boom era when Fremantle was a thriving port town.

Bounded by Market Street to the east, Collie Street and Marine Terrace to the south, Little High Street to the west and including both sides of Phillimore Street to the north, it has an important story to tell about the State’s early history and development.

Heritage Minister Albert Jacobs gave a great speech in Fremantle to announce this that I though was worth sharing:

The proposal to heritage list Fremantle’s West End was always an ambitious goal from the start…

It involved a 200,000 square metre area, including approximately 250 buildings, and requiring conversations with 400 owners.

It will come as no surprise that this project has kept the State Heritage Office very busy for most of the year gone.

As Minister for Heritage, I am fortunate in merely having to digest the sum of all this work – a hefty 500-page report that outlined the project.

The report assured me of several key things:

the well-considered nomination put forward

the comprehensive work done to share information and engage with stakeholders

the conclusion that Fremantle’s West End is an area rich in its own distinct history.

Truth be told, it was easy for me to make the decision because, together, the places within this area help tell the story of the development of Fremantle and also Western Australia.

As such, it gives me great pleasure to announce that West End, Fremantle will be the newest addition to the State Register of Heritage Places.

Fremantle’s West End is the largest single place to be included in the State Register.

I have consistently been referring to the West End as one place because that is entirely the rationale of its cultural-heritage significance.

Yes, individual places within West End have their unique stories, but the precinct, as one discrete area, offers a snapshot of Fremantle as a thriving port city business district during the gold boom.

The heritage listing of a precinct this size is, in itself, rare.

However, the sheer density of heritage buildings in an area this size makes the heritage listing of West End rare, on a national scale.

It is always a little difficult to make a definitive comparison with so many variables, but our research suggests that there is no other similar precinct that is heritage listed on a State level in Australia.

The inclusion of West End in the State Register will enhance its profile as a tourist precinct, potentially increase visitor numbers, and ultimately give businesses a real economic boost.

Registration brings with it other benefits… private owners of State Registered places are also able to apply for funding to help with the cost of conservation planning or projects through the Heritage Council’s annual Grants Program.

We are all familiar with the well-known saying: ‘Adapt and survive’

In many ways, West End has proved itself flexible enough to do just that, with a significant part of the precinct now enjoying new life as the Notre Dame University.

The proliferation of popular bars, eateries and speciality shops that have been adapted from heritage buildings in the area are testimony to the fact that heritage is good for business.

However, the West End still retains much of its original maritime identity as even today, many businesses that continue to service the maritime industry remain established in the West End.

I am truly excited about the inclusion of West End in the State Register.

I spoke of this as an ambitious project, but the heritage listing of West End also speaks of collaboration and partnerships.

I’d like to acknowledge:

the City of Fremantle, who had the initial vision and nominated the West End for State registration

the heartening support of owners like you, Michael and Eleni (from Kakulas Sister), who also understand the benefits of registration and championed the cause in the community

the tremendous work undertaken by the State Heritage Office in coordinating the heritage assessment, community engagement and providing me with the information I needed to make this decision.

Thank you all.

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