THE NEW WEASEL WORD IS DEMOLITION
Fremantle’s current council were voted in on promises delivered by a mantra – Sustainability. But what progress has been made on the back of the buzz? Very little.
Councillors Mute in the Face of Developers
Now, with time running out on several plans, notably the King’s Square development, a new buzzword is worming around the West End – Demolition – and not a single councillor has actively promoted the notion of conservation and restoration and been courageous enough to condemn the plan to demolish 75 High Street. Forgive me if they have but it would be very useful for the public to become aware of any such notions by their elected members.
Gobbledgook from the Green’s Corner
We have been blessed with Councillor Sullivan’s obfuscation in relation to the recent application for demolition of 75 High Street. Sullivan is a master of discombobulation, leaving readers and listeners wondering what he actually stands for. Interestingly he lists among his architectural achievements his involvement with the Leighton Beach and the Northshore developments. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it is up to individuals to judge those developments. Apart from Sullivan there appear to be no councillors with architectural experience.
Spongy Economics of King’s Square
If we are to apply demolition tactics to old and singularly unattractive buildings we should look closely at the spongy economics of the King’s Square plan. An obvious option would be to give Fremantle a truly attractive town centre by demolishing the Myer building and the carpark at the rear as well as Queensgate. This area could then become an attractive central park which showcases the Town Hall and St. Patrick’s Church. It would have on one boundary a row of beautifully renovated cottages. New council administration offices could be built on the Spicer’s site, overlooking the city square and accommodating a library above ground. (The current plan calls for an underground library). That is obviously not going to happen but it may be the best and most economical option for the city in the long run.
Is Conservation Uneconomical? That suppositon is easily disproved
Fremantle’s historic architecture is sustainable. Should the buzzword now be ‘conservation’ which, by its nature, encompasses ‘sustainable’? Critics have said restoration is uneconomical and that people don’t like working in old buildings.
The University of Notre Dame has restored a large part of the West End enclave. Their architect, the late Marcus Collins, successfully designed and directed the renovation of properties while maintaining the architectural integrity and character of the West End and he was able to work within what he described as a limited budget.
The success of the university in attracting students and staff to work and study in the enclave is patently obvious. Logic demonstrates that stylish, high quality, renovation of properties can be accomplished and make economical sense. Notre Dame have also demonstrated that it is not necessary to increase height. Interestingly so have Match with their east end redevelopment of the old wool stores. In spite of council approving a height increase on the building Match went back to their figures and decided it was more profitable not to increase the building’s height.
World Class Restoration Succeeds: Fremantle needs Civic Pride
More use of colour on shopfronts, possibly heritage colour options, and maybe the reconstruction of original shop fronts in the West End is not beyond the realms of possibility. Conciencious developers and property managers should consider a range of options.
© Lidia D’Opera 2016
Recent world class restorations in Fremantle include The National Hotel, The Federal Hotel with the Warders’ Cottages nearing completion. Shortly the renovated Norwegian Consular Office on the corner of Cliff and Phillimore Streets will be unveiled. These are examples council should be noting and learning from. They should not bow to pressure from property owners wishing to demolish and rebuild with added height using the developers mantra- ‘It’s the only way to make it economical’
Fremantle needs imagination, cultural nous and civic pride to be demonstrated and promoted by councillors, developers and architects.
Cities such as Paris take an enormous pride in conserving their precincts. So does Napier in NZ where a small group of people, within a relatively short period of time, turned their city’s fortunes around by promoting its architecture. <https://fremantlebackchat.org/2013/05/08/a-tale-of-two-cities/>
Note: Many thanks to my colleague Lidia D’Opera for the use of her pictures. Her web site is at <http://www.lidiadopera.com.au> and is well worth exploring.