What the future of shopping looks like

Weekend Australian

8th December 2018.

A multimillion dollar development in Western Australia is set to disrupt our ideas on real-time buying in the 21st century.

With claims traditional retail is dying as shoppers continue to flock online, it may defy logic to open a $220 million retail precinct.

But Fremantle’s creatively named FOMO development is anything but a cookie-cutter box filled with generic shopfronts and harsh, fluorescent lighting. Set to redefine what the future of brincks-and-mortar shopping looks like, the open-sided, free-flowing space plans on granting millennials and families that thing they most want: an experience.

The retail project, positioned in Fremantle’s civic and historic centre, is as unconventional as the port town’s 32,000 residents. The letters of the building’s social media-friendly name have been super-scaled and worked into the structure, which harbours a collection of precincts that blend into one another, constantly transforming as day turns into night. When completed, a hawker-style market will lead to laneways, craft-led maker spaces, cafes and bars, an amphitheatre, marketplace and a pocket park. Traditional shopfronts and sanitised spaces have been banned from the design.

Sirona Capital is behind the development. Its Perth-based managing director, Matthew McNeilly says it’s time for a dramatic rethink about what retail in Australia looks like. “Retail’s doing it tough, but when you scratch beneath the surface, I believe a lot of that is self-inflicted,” he says. “The shopping centre experience feels stuck in the 80s. The world is changing. People are looking for experiences beyond the retail transaction.

That means shopping is almost supplementary to the reason for gathering at a retail venue.. Retailers that are ahead of the curve are going to attract people.”

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt describes FOMO’s approach as “risky, edgy” and just what the artsy area needs to revive its dying retail sector. He believes it should be a blueprint for future development. “How do you rethink what city centres are going to

look like in the 21st century?” he asks. “There’s no doubt online is rapidly transforming the retail experience. For us, there’s a sense that FOMO is going to be very different and very experiential, rather than a place where you’re just going to buy the standard stuff that you can buy online.”

The development’s community engagement reveals further out-of-the-box thinking. Extensive research into the town’s cultural DNA was done prior to the architectural design.

Now that construction is under way, a collaborative community event saw almost  a thousand people join in a massive, free paint-in at Fremantle Oval earlier this month.

The FOMO Freo Colour event invited locals to paint their interpretation of Fremantle, using supplied easels, paints and brushes that were later donated to local arts organisations. Five works were selected from 500 paintings, to be used by the development in the future. A sunrise piece by eight-year-old artist Elliot Laurent was one of those chosen.

“It is a very big deal for him,” says his father Chris Laurent. “He has asked for an easel and some paints for Christmas so he can continue painting.”

Pettitt, who has a professional background in urban design and sustainable development, says he hasn’t seen this sort of interaction from a developer before. “I thought, ‘That’s risky,’ because I wasn’t sure what level of engagement they’d get. But people wanted to be part of it,” he says.

“It’s what’s going to make this work.”

Construction on FOMO began earlier this year and is on track for completion by the end of 2019.

For further information visit fomofreo.com.au