Fremantle developers' new port of call

Australian Financial Review

4th May 2015.

A swag of national retailers have opened their doors in Fremantle as the port city's development pipeline swells to more than $1 billion.

Popular convenience store 7-Eleven has chosen Fremantle for the site of its first retail outlet in Western Australia after securing a seven-year lease with local landowner Hanny Properties. Boost Juice has opened its doors at the opposite end of the mall. Both deals signal a resurgence of interest in the once struggling shopping strip.

Fremantle has battled high vacancy rates and poor levels of foot traffic following years of underinvestment in the town centre, which has buildings dating back to the 1850s. But substantial investment from a number of local retail landowners, as well as investment heavyweights, is slowly drawing more retail interest back to the port, CBRE agent Craig Olde said.

"Fremantle's retail market has had its challenges, [but] the city has a range of intrinsic advantages, including its unique heritage and character," Mr Olde said.

Silverleaf Properties, owned by Gerard O'Brien, is midway through a $16.5 million upgrade of Fremantle's Atwell Arcade and is also in the process of gaining approval for an update of the iconic Fremantle Woolstores Shopping Centre.

Mr O'Brien's group has shelled out more than $80 million in the past three years, snapping up prime sites including Atwell Arcade, the Target building and the Fremantle Woolstores, for which it paid about $50 million in late 2014.

Property owners, including the Asian-backed Hanny Developments and Manning Estates, are also upgrading retail assets throughout the city to improve occupancy rates and the tenancy mix, while the local council has tipped in about $500,000 for public works.

In addition, Sirona Capital's $220 million Kings Square development in Fremantle is being built by Leighton. Sirona has also funded the $97 million conversion of the Dalgety Woolstores apartment project known as Heirloom on Queen Street.

"The real focus is Sirona Capital developing Kings Square, but there's a concerted revitalisation going on across the board," CBRE agent Peter Agostino said.

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