SPIN CITY

SPIN CITY: $650,000 BUDGET FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
Fremantle journalist Carmelo Amalfi has revealed Fremantle Council has so far spent $650,000 on a public relations campaign.
Ratepayers Face Conflicting Evidence of Visitor Numbers
The Mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, paraphrasing spin from Sirona, stated in late September that Fremantle has 1,600,000 tourists per year.
He claims this will increase to 3,000,000 when the Myer makeover is completed but quickly contradicted himself, announcing the Fremantle Festival Parade will be cancelled because visitor numbers are not high enough.
The parade will be replaced by a shopping trolley race to held in King’s Square to raise money for charity. There should be no shortage of competitors. Within fifty metres of the mayor’s office there are enough homeless people using shopping trolleys to harness their belongings in their shopping trollies and head for the starting line.
On the 5th October the Mayor quoted conflicting visitor numbers. These show that in the financial years of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 visitor figures were a little short of 1.3 million per year, 300,000 less than figure of 1.6m Dr Pettitt had previously quoted which he said were obtained from the Department of Tourism.
The Mayors latest statistics show the Festival period of November has a very high visitor rating, only marginally  lower  than the Christmas and Easter holiday periods.
So why cancel the Festival Parade which has been the highlight of the annual ten day festival for 20 years?
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Homeless and in sight of the Mayor’s office. This person was camped here for weeks and  then the election campaign got into gear. It appears that he has found a home or was moved on by Fremantle Council’s security squad. In the past few days a lot of people seem to have been ‘moved along’. In defence of the security detail it must be said they operate with a great deal of tact and understanding but they are only a band aid solution.

EMERGING DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY
It’s not difficult to spot the city’s emerging dystopian society. Retail trade in the West End is collapsing. Within a stone’s throw of the Town Hall, where rents for a medium size retail outlet are as high as $240,000, homeless people sleep in the empty doorways. Of course the problem is solved easily – move them on. We now have a security team recruited by council to clean up the streets, moving less than fortunate people away. Out of sight, out of mind! A band aid solution for an increasing problem and a clear sign of a city in crisis.
While this is happening Spin City HQ is in full swing. The council are reportedly burning a budget in excess of $650,000 to try and make the Magic Pudding rise. Coincidently this feel good spin is happening during the lead up to an election where challengers to the Koolaid Council, followers of The Cult Of Brad, are fighting for seats and salaries Fremantle ratepayers are funding the spin campaign.
THE ONE EYED MAN IS KING
We’re told that the Myer makeover will see Fremantle’s economy rise, Phoenix like, from the ashes of an eight year autocracy.
The Mayor is commendably one eyed about the city’s future. But in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. There is also  a biblical saying: ” When a blind man bears the standard, pity those who follow.”

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The CBD’s latest victim closed last week

FINANCIAL GOAL POSTS MOVED IN A SMOKE AND MIRRORS ACT
The city’s overbearing spin has sparse factual substance but when the financial facts related to the King’s Square development were exposed by financial expert Martin Lee and City Ward candidate Claudia Green, they were brushed under the carpet. Those facts, based on figures obtained from council, show Fremantle faces a  financial collapse leaving ratepayers to fill a black hole of up to $50,000,000.
This financial collapse was recently endorsed by the Minister who stated Fremantle is a city at financial risk. Fremantle had the worst financial rating on the State’s Local Government website.
Fremantle Council claimed that was not the case explaining they had moved the goal posts in the accounting system, hence the poor showing of 42 points in a statewide list of councils’ finances. 70 points is the benchmark for good financial health.
Within a fee days the goal posts were moved again. Fremantle now has a rating of 85! Questions must be asked about how this smoke and mirrors act came about.
Was the Minister mislead, were Treasury so incompetent they misread the city’s accounts? Did all ratepayers  come down with the last shower and believe this overnight turnaround? Was there a moment of panic in the Mayor’s office?
LIPSTICK ON A PIG
The Myer makeover materialised from an architectural competition and is described in Spin City’s publicity as world class. It is not. It is simply putting lipstick on a pig. The style is a Neo Lavatorial throwback to the 60s similar to that used in the  in the east end of the city. That too was promised to be a miracle trading area for the city. The area is now little more than a third world eyesore with a promised hotel development put on hold and becoming a temporary car park. The new Woolworth’s site, next to St Patrick’s, which we were told would bring life to the east end of the city, is closed after a few years of trading. At least 80 retail and business premises are now visibly vacant in Fremantle’s CBD alone.  The total is probably over 100.
OUTSIDE FORCES BLAMED WITH SMOKE AND MIRRORS SPIN
Outside forces are blamed: the GFC; mining boom collapse; State Government finances et al. Yet other shires flourish while operating under identical state, national and international burdens.
What we are getting is more Spin. Smoke and mirrors distractions: Australia Day; plastic bags; charity collection pillars; speed humps; shopping trolly derby; ‘Yes’ vote. Non of these issues address the core problems facing the city and the spin bait seems to be swallowed hook line and sinker by every member of council.
Does council really need a new administration building? The old one seems to have worn quite well and bears a striking resemblance to the Myer makeover, a carry over from ’60s style architecture. The market in Kings Square has not succeeded in attracting visitors and there is no reason to assume that the glossy spin from Sirona will be any more successful. These lifestyle promotions can result in spectacular failures. An example is the Docklands development in Melbourne which now has retailers and restauranteurs walking away from their leases and apartment owners saying ‘this is not the lifestyle we were promised’.

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Fremantle’s existing  administration building would benefit from a coat of paint and a flashy new market piazza . We could save $50,000,000 using little more than a paint pot.

$1.3 BILLION INVESTMENT MANTRA : ONLY 20% HAPPENING
We are told that investments of $1.3 billion are progressing in the city. They are not. In fact they are nearly all stalled, put on hold. The only visible progress is Sirona’s where we’ll see concrete Botox slapped on Miss Piggy. That is less than 20% of the investments the Mayor claims are happening.
THE ASIAN CONNECTION
Sirona  is a  company with strong connections to  Alvarez and Marsal, a corporation specialising in turning sluggish areas into  sustainable growth. Are Sirona  a pimple on the back of a massive overseas corporation and can we expect to see a sell out? In that respect council have helped  by selling assets at bargain basement prices to Sirona.  Many of the ratepayers’ assets at well below market value. We can be 100% certain that the real winners will be the developers. Who negotiated that deal?

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Homeless on Monument Hill. A number of people have been sleeping here recently. Will this type of image become an epitaph to Fremantle’s once vibrant lifestyle and economy?


NOTE:
Dr Pettitt has been asked to clarify the visitor figures and has been asked whether there was any other reason the Festival Parade has been cancelled.

Roger Garwood

editorbackchat@gmail.com

FREMANTLE: RUNNING ON EMPTY

While council deliver a mantra of sustainability the signs of a collapse in the Fremantle economy is glaringly evident in the CBD.

I took a walk around  the area and counted in excess of 40 properties which are empty, offered for lease, or moving. The total is probably closer to 60 as the Woolworth’s building houses a number of vacant outlets  as does the Coles Woolstore.  These pictures were taken within about 250m of the Town Hall

Very recently one new retail outlet, selling high quality home furnishings and decorations, has closed after six months. It was located in the Mall, opposite the Town Hall. The rent was $240,000,  higher than similar sized properties in downtown New York.

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VILLA, closed after six months about a week ago. The rent was $240,000 a year but trade for this high quality retail outlet  didn’t materialise. This is in Fremantle Mall, opposite the Attwell Arcade development.

Shepherd’s News agency have to move from their prime spot. It holds the longest serving tenancy of Fremantle. The original Shepherd’s News Agency was established in this building in 1908 and the current business owners have been there for 26 years. They now have to move aside for developers.

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Shepherd’s Newsagency have been located in the Manning building  since 1908. They are the oldest  business in Fremantle still operating from the same premises. Now they have to move to make way for development.

The Woolworths shopping centre, next to St Patrick’s, has been closed for a couple of years. It was gleefully broadcast that this would bring new life to the east end of the city. Opposite them the Hilton site, which used to contain a number of shops, is derelict and scheduled to become a temporary car park.

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The Woolstores centre is hosting many empty premises. Even with a carpark in situ it was not able to survive

The centre  hosted about 20 retail and office business’s. They were not included in my count of about 40 empty premises.

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The Hilton Hotel site, due to become a temporary car park. 

CODA, a mainstay of council’s PR sustainability spin, have closed shop and amalgamated with a Perth based company. CODA was a foundation stone of the Future Fremantle organisation, established to build a better Fremantle.

 

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CODA’s vacant office

 

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Coles Woolstores site is home to several vacant retail premises
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A small selection of over 40 empty retail and office premises in the CBD is shown below.

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And finally, in one vacant shop window the mayor delivers his mantra of a vibrant city.

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SUNSET’S J SHED SUBSIDY

SUNSET HAVE GAINED RATEPAYERS’  $105,000 ‘SUBSIDY’

In a lease approved by  Fremantle Council  for  Sunset Events ratepayers will fund a  $105,000 subsidy to help the financially troubled company to establish their micro brewery and 400 seat bar in J shed.

 

An extension of 12 months for the time in which Sunset implement the lease has been applied for and will be considered by council tomorrow, Wednesday 14th June.

In an application lodged with Fremantle Council   (7th July 2017) Benson Studio for Sunset outline a proposal which reveals a rent reduction of $105,000 in the first two years of the Sunset lease.

The rent for the lease  of the J Shed studio, situated on Arthur Head below the Round House and site for Sunset’s proposed micro brewery, is $83.950 per year. Over the first two years rent would have totalled  $167,900. Sunset are requesting they pay only $62,962 in that period. This represents a shortfall of $105,000 which effectively forces ratepayers to subsidise a private company’s startup. Several observers have commented that even without the subsidy the  rent is very cheap.

Buried deep in the 62 page lease the relevant clause states:

Item 8.       Rent: (clause 3.1)

$83,950.00 per annum plus GST

14.6     Rent Reduction

The Parties acknowledge and agree that during the period commencing from the Commencement Date and ending 24 months after the Commencement Date, the Lessee will pay Rent at a reduced rate and in the following manner

(a)        for the first year of the Term, the Lessee will pay 25% of the Rent; and

b)         for the second year of the Term, the Lessee will pay 50% of the Rent.

FINANCIAL CLOUD OVER SUNSET : ONLY ‘HOPEFUL’ THEY CAN PAY RENT

A number of  media outlets  have outlined some members of the events industry in Western Australia have had trouble paying creditors. Those businesses include Sunset who have been arranging financial settlements with their creditors.

Sunset are only ‘hopeful’ that extra time will help. The Application says: “Sunset has advised that it would be difficult in current circumstances for them to pay rent from July 2017 without the approvals they require to trade effectively. Sunset are hopeful that once approvals are gained, it will trigger investment and the ability to cover the rent and finalise the “Lessee Works”.

COUNCILLORS ADVISED  ‘REJECT EXTENSION ‘

The application for the extension also says: “Sunset Venues have had ample time to gain required approvals and that the lease considers the scenario in which approvals have not been granted by the lease commencement date. Therefore, it is recommended that the request for an extension until 1 July 2018 be rejected.”

Council officers state the proposed leasing arrangements may continue in a state of ‘frustration’. They say “In the event that the approvals are not granted, the lease will continue in a state of ‘frustration’ where no outcome is achieved other than activation …”

WHY SHOULD WE SUBSIDISE THEM?

Sunset’s management admit they are financially frustrated. Is it reasonable for ratepayers to subsidise them?

There has been considerable  angst among residents in the area of J Shed.  The issue of this lease and the request for a $105,000 ‘startup subsidy’ may have a strong influence on the outcome of council elections in October this year.

A number of councillors and organisations have been asked by Fremantle Backchat to comment.

North Ward  councillor Doug Thompson explained his considerations. He said: “Councillors are required to take into account a range of information before making a decision and to have an open mind  about decisions. My general approach to decision making is to give primacy to the information contained in the report and to the officers’ recommendation”

He continued:  “I keep an open mind ( as I am required to) in relation to information provided during a meeting and the issues raised in debate. In relation to your specific questions the decision in relation to the lease arrangements has already been made and is not being reconsidered. What I think about specific elements of the lease is irrelevant. The good governance recommendation by the Department of Local Government, and the Local Government Act,  requires me to support decisions made by Council, regardless of whether I, as an individual Councillor supported those decisions at the time.”

Ra Stewart, a mayoral candidate in the City’s October electoral said: “I am supportive of the officer’s recommendation to reject the extension of the lease commencement date. It would appear that Council has been fairly generous up to this point in time.”

‘KICKING THE CAN AROUND’

The Mayor and City Ward Councillor Rachel  Pemberton have declared a conflict of interest and feel in that circumstance they are not in a position to comment.

Maryrose  Baker and Robert Mehan of Fremantle Inner City Residents Association declined to comment saying:  “FICRA is currently preparing a formal response for Council re the latest Sunset Events J Shed proposal.  We don’t intend to issue any statements on the matter as an Association nor as individuals right now”.

John Dowson was asked to comment as  President of the newly amalgamated Fremantle Society and the Fremantle Residents’ & Ratepayers’ Association but chose to make a personal observation: “In terms of the J Shed lease Sunset may have a lot on their plate financially. Sunset and the Mayor may not want the lease to be a major election issue, raising again the question of the $5000 election donation from Chitty’s brother, and kick the can down the road until the October election is over”.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM A MAJOR ELECTION ISSUE?

If council approve the application for a delay the controversial elephant in the room may  be given a lease of life.  If they do not Sunset will need to implement the lease from 1st July this year, complete with the already agreed $105,000 rent reduction but still under their admitted financial difficulties.

It does seem likely that the J Shed lease and Sunset Events will become an election issue which will need to be addressed by all candidates, particularly those for City Ward and for the position of mayor.

 

SUSTAINABILITY: The Buzzword which led Fremantle Nowhere.

 

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.

NOT PARIS. A neglected building in the heart of Fremantle's West End. Rumour is that this may become a victim of demolition and increased height. A chance for councillors to consider their obligations to voters, not to developers. ©Roger Garwood 2016
NOT PARIS.
A neglected building in the heart of Fremantle’s West End. Rumour is that this  building may become a victim of demolition and increased height. A chance for councillors to consider their obligations to voters, not to developers. 
©Roger Garwood 2016

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.

One of a number of Parisian shop fronts photographed by Lidia D'Opera. They display a stylish, appealing, shabby chic. A concept which could easily be emulated in Fremantle's West End. © Lidia D'Opera 2016
One of a number of Parisian shop fronts photographed by Lidia D’Opera. They display a stylish, appealing, shabby chic. A concept which could easily be emulated in Fremantle’s West End.
© Lidia D’Opera 2016

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.

It's not difficult to find style, nor follow ethnic backgrounds. In that respect Fremantle has many options. The city has a number of strong ethnic communities who could help promote a colourful cross cultural background. © Lidia D'Opera 2016
It’s not difficult to find style, nor follow ethnic backgrounds in Paris or other major cities in Europe.  In that respect Fremantle has many options. The city has a number of strong ethnic communities who could help promote a colourful cross cultural background.
© Lidia D’Opera 2016

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

The use of colour on shopfronts, 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

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/&gt;

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&gt; and is well worth exploring.

A perfect example of conservation in the West End which contains the diverse social and cultural requirements of a city. © Roger Garwood 2016
Perfect examples of conservation in Fremantle’s West End,  containing the diverse social and cultural requirements of a city.
© Roger Garwood 2016

SLAM DUNK IN FS ELECTION

Chris Lewis Defeated 84-22

The challenge for the leadership of the Fremantle Society resulted in a slam dunk victory for John Dowson.

Speeches by each candidate, mercifully restricted to five minutes each, were incisive but, in the end,  boiled down to delivery.

Lewis was casual in his approach but his voice didn’t carry well in the packed meeting and his enunciation was poor. He outlined a campaign for better quality in development, emphasised the need to revisit the town hall/King’s Square redevelopment and overall, called for balanced and harmonious development.

Dowson, not widely known for his speech presentations,  surprised the audience with a powerful, skilled and succinct speech calling for a robust and independent society which would assist change and evolution in the city.

The atmosphere in the room became electric. The campaign had been rugged and John Dowson’s supporters had been anticipating an embarrassing defeat.

Cathy Hall announced the results, saying 107 votes had been cast of which 106 were valid.
She slowly read: “John Dowson, 84 votes. Chris Lewis 22 votes”. After a few seconds of silence the hall erupted into applause for Dowson.

The count for committee members proceeded for well over an hour. In the end it was an almost clean sweep for John Dowson’s supporters.

Fremantle now has three strong organisations  aligned to challenge council and developers and ensure proper processes are followed: The Fremantle Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (FRRA), Fremantle Inner City Residents’ Association (FICRA) and The Fremantle Society.

By coincidence the Fremantle Society celebrated it’s 43rd birthday yesterday. Maybe this victory will go down in history as the icing on the cake.