Freos View

18th October 2019.

The Leaders Lunch of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce at the Esplanade Hotel was an interesting one. FCC CEO Danicia Quinlan asked very good questions, which were answered by Matthew McNeilly of Sirona Capital, Julian Smith of Notre Dame University, Eve Clark of L3 Harris, Brodie Carr of Tourism WA, and architect Geoffrey London who chairs the City’s Design Advisory Panel.

McNeilly said Sirona got involved in Fremantle because he loves the city and that the university, tourism, heritage and culture appealed to him. The relationship his company has with the City of Fremantle is first class, probably because the interests align. The economic benefits the Kings Square project has were understood by the state government and the City of Fremantle.

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Managing Director Matthew McNeilly said he hoped that Fremantle would return to the great days of the America’s Cup and that retail is looking incredibly promising for Kings Square.

Professor Geoffrey London said that Fremantle’s unique quality is urban design. He believes it is important that developers engage local people with local knowledge, and said that the Fremantle design community had a lot of commonality and often meets.

Pro Vice Chancellor Julian Smith said that Notre Dame is not isolated but part of the community and that the future direction is for students and visitors of NDA to stay and be an activate part of Fremantle’s economy. Notre Dame is a global ambassador for Fremantle!

Managing Director Brodie Carr of Tourism WA said Fremantle was not just a point of transition between Perth and Rottnest Isalnd, but that many overseas visitors specifically came for Fremantle. Tourism WA is embarking on a whole new brand and marketing strategy about what is unique about WA destinations. They are finding new creative agencies to bring that new narrative alive and the message is created by WA people, not an advertising agency.

Managing Director Eve Clark said the maritime and defence industries are about very smart people working with new and changing technology to work in Fremantle, but the challenge was to find spaces where companies can grow and where workers live just a four-minute walk from work. Workers want a nice place to work in and they are often difficult to find.

Geoffrey London said that old buildings can be converted into contemporary work spaces and the challenge is to get people to work and live, for example in the former RSL building in High Street, that has a unique offering for residential, office and retail.

McNeilly said that the state government move to Fremantle is a catalyst and that now others are looking for commercial spaces in Fremantle to move into. One could also imagine that new office workers might want to move to Freo once they see how special it is. “I am very optimistic and positive about the Fremantle future.”

Brodie Carr said that smaller boutique hotels would be good for Fremantle because visitors would want a more unique hotel experience than a large five star hotel.

Eve Clark said that ship building is booming in Australia and a lot is happening in WA with a change away from the oil and gas focus. There is a lot of growth in the defence industry and that will create employment opportunities.

Julian Smith said that the university was helping people to adapt to changing technologies and working environments. It was important that the university collaborated with the industries and that students could experience workplace learning locally.

Geoffrey London said it was terrific that Notre Dame University is in Fremantle but would like to see NDA open ground level spaces to get more activation in the West End. Quality small bars have shown that the alcohol experience can be civilised.

Julian Smith said NDA was about educating and life experience from a global perspective and that they are growing the undergraduate student education. It is about diversification.

Geoffrey London said the state government needed to look at a different format as all development land here is sold while in other countries it is often leased. People were resisting high density because a lot of density that has been built is of poor quality. We need to display well designed density to get rid of the fear, and that includes public spaces and protecting the tree canopy. “We need to move from yield to amenity.”

Matthew McNeilly said the government needed to be more flexible in regard to stamp duty as it is a hindrance for developers when times are bad.

It was a good and relaxing session listening to stakeholders and investors in Fremantle, and well done Danicia Quinlan who now can have a new career hosting Q&A on ABC TV.