Multi-million dollar facelift to turn neglected heritage site into 'new centre of Freo'

WA Today

7th May 2020.

A Fremantle hotelier plans to transform a heritage-listed courtroom into a multi- storey boutique hotel and bar in an ambitious plan to breathe some life into a neglected corner of the port city.

National Hotel co-owner Karl Bullers is the mastermind behind the Old Courthouse Fremantle, a $5 million facelift of the former courthouse and police station buildings in Henderson Street.

The development hopes to restore the ageing buildings to their former glory and complement "the new centre of Freo"; the up-and-coming retail precinct near Fremantle Oval.

As part of the plan, one of the historic courtrooms will be transformed into a bar, leading out to a glass pavilion with room for 450 punters and a garden area serving local craft brews.

Artist's impressions released by Mr Bullers also show plans for an alfresco restaurant and bar along Henderson Street, with boutique businesses in the old convict-built warders' cottages.

The hotelier remained tight-lipped about his plans to transform the second courthouse building into a restaurant but hinted the space would bring "something a little different" to Fremantle.

"There are some large tree-covered open spaces and the overall development will ultimately feature beautiful walkways between the hotel and boutique businesses," Mr Bullers said.

When completed, the Old Courthouse will join a long-list of buzzing new developments in the once-neglected corner of South Terrace, including the popular Freo.Social and Old Synagogue.

Located less than 100 metres away from the iconic Fremantle Markets, the site will also complement the $220 million redevelopment of Kings Square, the biggest reshape of the city centre in years.

"This area of Fremantle is really changing," Mr Bullers said. "The hub is extremely attractive to families and we are hoping to develop some great events and activities each year."

The project has been on the cards since 2017 when the state government restored and sold 15 warders' cottages along Henderson Street to several buyers, including Silverleaf Investments, the developer behind the Old Courthouse proposal.

The plans were approved by the City of Fremantle and the South West Joint Development Assessment Panel in 2018, with the development scheduled to be completed by early 2021.

While the coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over the original opening date, Mr Bullers said the project would likely be completed sometime next year.

"Heritage restoration of the buildings is a big job and important to the fabric of Fremantle," he said.

"There is a lot of work ahead in bringing these signi´Čücant old buildings back to life."