Guest Article - City of Fremantle

Eight years ago, when I had a few less grey hairs, the Committee for Perth published an article on the transformative moves that Fremantle was taking to turn its fortunes around. Back then, in 2012, Fremantle was reflecting on two lost decades of slow economic decline. Bold action was needed to get people living, working and visiting Fremantle again. This article reflects on the success of those four transformative moves, almost a decade in the making.

The first and most pivotal transformational move was to increase building heights and densities in the Fremantle CBD, in the non-heritage parts of the city. This has worked! It has seen over a billion dollars of new investment in the pipeline and sites such as the former-Myer/Queensgate, Atwell Arcade, Westgate Mall, and Woolstores Shopping Centre all in the process of been redeveloped more intensively.

Not only has it enabled new office developments into central Fremantle but it has meant Fremantle could substantially increase its CDB population. The reality is there is still a long way to go. Freo’s CBD population needs to at least double again but the foundations for redevelopment and renewal are in place.

The second transformational move was the Kings Square Project the City of Fremantle did in collaboration with Sirona Capital. This has seen an extra 2000 office workers in central Fremantle. Eight years on the project still isn’t quite complete but the final stages including the new $50 million Wallylalup Library and Civic Centre and FOMO retail will be open in early 2021.

The third transformational move was to enable more diverse and affordable housing in Fremantle. We have some important successes, originally with our small ancillary dwelling scheme amendment (aka granny flats with grannies) which is now state-wide policy, and more recently with the Freo Alternative which is adding much needed housing affordability and diversity to our suburbs.

We have also partnered with developers to provide key worker apartments in central Fremantle but there is once again plenty more to do to make apartments more affordable – not just small. Young people, artists, and key workers such as teachers and nurses shouldn’t be forced to buy or rent on the urban fringe to access affordable housing. We want them in downtown Freo.

It is perhaps the fourth and final transformational move - the transition to a low carbon city – that remains the biggest and an increasingly important challenge for all cities. Eight years on WA still has one of the biggest per capita carbon footprints in the developed world but our state’s transition to a more sustainable, low carbon future has been barely evident.

Fremantle has invested heavily in renewable energy from geo-thermal to roof top solar. When the Wallyalup Civic Centre opens it will be one of the biggest zero carbon buildings in Australia.

But a true low carbon transition will require major investments from renewable energy to inner city public transport, obviously not something Fremantle can do alone. It will require the support of the state government and we will keep advocating for this.

My closing thoughts of eight years ago remain equally relevant today even in these challenging COVID times: Successful cities of the 21st century are going to need to be very different to the successful cities of the 20th century. The path across the chasms of change can’t be achieved with small tentative steps. It is going to take some giant, transformational leaps. These transformational moves will create the opportunity to make our existing urban centres even better places for people with vibrancy, diversity and sustainability at their core.

This article was submitted by the City of Fremantle

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.