27th November 2020.
When Sirona Capital managing director Matthew McNeilly said he was going to throw the rule book out of the window for his FOMO development in Fremantle, he meant it.
The commercial arm of the $270 million redevelopment of Kings Square is a patchwork of cultures and styles, where the chaotic backstreets of Saigon meet the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.
When it opens next year, it will feature a supermarket, thousands of square metres of retail, a secondary school, a visitor centre and laneways dotted with alfresco dining.
The boldest addition to the mix will be an Asian-themed laneway inspired by the hawkers' markets of south-east Asia, where restaurants will spill into the street in outdoor eating areas.
The laneway will also feature the 'king's crowns'; two pop-up eateries reminiscent of the work of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi and Spain's popular restaurant stalls, known as 'chiringuitos'.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which put leases on hold and disrupted international supply chains, Mr McNeilly said Sirona had managed to lease out all the tenancies, most of which would be new to Fremantle.
WAtoday can reveal a big chunk of the commercial space will be taken by an IGA "with a Freo flavour" and American-style restaurant Varsity Bar, which already operates out of Nedlands, Northbridge, Waterford, Morley and Joondalup.
The first tenants will open their doors in January next year, with the remaining to follow suit in the months after.
The development will be organised around a double-storey retail emporium, with an entertainment space in the basement drawing inspiration from Bikini Berlin, a German train station-turned-shopping mall.
It will connect to the civic centre, home to the City of Fremantle's new council chambers, through Newman Court – a pedestrian street lined with palm trees and alfresco areas mirroring the streets of Madrid – which will culminate in a children's nature playground.
Designed by architect HDR, FOMO will preserve the concrete skeleton of the old Myer building with two extra storeys of office space entirely leased to the state government.
Sirona bought the Myer and Queensgate buildings in 2011 with the intention of returning Kings Square to its former glory.
It took three years of negotiations for the developer to get the state government on board and sign a lease agreement to bring the departments of communities and transport to the building.
Construction on the project kicked off in mid-2018 and, to date, about 1700 government workers have moved into the building.
The revamp of Kings Square has been heralded as the biggest reshape the port city has seen in a generation, and touted as the solution to its social and economic woes.
Mr McNeilly said the building had been designed to be the “antithesis of shopping centres”, which were sterile and unimaginative, and would bring an “eclectic collection of operators” to Fremantle.
“I always wanted FOMO to be the heart of Freo,” Mr McNeilly said.
He said the building would have an industrial feel, keep the original concrete columns and feature “unusual” shopfronts and $1 million worth of street art.
The civic building, which will feature a library, retail space and a children's nature playground, will be completed by March 2021.
All pictures by Marta Pascual Juanola.