Fremantle's $220 million spruce up of CBD gets housing boost

Brisbane Times

7th August 2015.

Fremantle council's long-delayed $220 million redevelopment of its CBD has received a shot in the arm, after the Barnett government indicated the Department of Housing would be relocating to the port city.

The city's multi-million dollar spruce-up of Kings Square had been pushed back almost two years, while Sirona Capital - the developer the city will work with on the project - tried to secure an anchor tenant to fill some of the 30,000sqm of office space within the city centre.

The redevelopment will also see a new civic chambers, library, offices for the City of Fremantle and 16,000sqm of retail space.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the government announcing an expression of interest for 20,000 square metres of office space in the port city "was a long time coming".

The WA government announced almost three years ago it would move 1000 public servants to the port city as part of its program to decentralise key agencies.

"Finally that process is happening with earnest," Dr Pettitt told Fairfax Media.

"We are very excited the state government is finally coming to Freo.

"Our view is 20,000 square metres of A-grade office space with workers in the middle of Freo is good no matter where it is."

Dr Pettitt said the department coming to Fremantle would help turn around the city's ailing economic fortunes.

Fremantle has been languishing in the economic doldrums with major retailers departing the port city in their droves over the last few years.

Although last month it looked like the DoH would not relocate to the port city after Premier Colin Barnett threatened to renege on the plans after Fremantle council was outspoken about the government's $1.6 million Perth Freight Link.

Mr Barnett said in parliament the City of Fremantle should "not bite the hands that feeds you" - in response to the city's opposition to the Freight Link and the privatisation of Fremantle Ports.

"This is a key catalyst project," Dr Pettitt said. "On the back of that, 20,000 square metres is 1000 workers.

"No matter where the development happens it will be more than a $100 million plus development. It will transform Freo. And for us that is absolutely key at this really key challenging economic point for Freo.

"This is exactly what we need."

Dr Pettitt hoped when the cranes starting popping up in Fremantle after the Kings Square development started next year, other developers would be drawn to the port city. 

"This is not the beginning and end to it - this will be a catalytic project for a whole range of others who will come to Fremantle," he said. "It actually sets up Fremantle as a second city - as a place where there is a proper commercial heart, not just a dormitory suburb where people come and sleep.

"Freo needs this. If we are going to have a proper seven-day a week economy and not just a three-day a week economy like we have currently got, this is essential." Finance Minister Bill Marmion said the state government remained focused on having a presence in Fremantle.

"Fremantle is an important metropolitan activity centre, with many community attributes including good rail access," he said. "That is why we are focusing on potential office accommodation within walking distance of the train station.

"The EOI is the first stage of a potential two-staged procurement process and its outcomes will be presented to government for further consideration prior to proceeding to the next second stage of the procurement process, a restricted request for proposal." 

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