FREMANTLE council’s grand vision for revitalising the port city with 4000 new inner-city residents has hit a snag.
Mayor Brad Pettitt has publicly claimed a developer is struggling to sell the first batch of 200 apartments planned for the Fort Knox building on Queen Victoria Street.
The developer, Match, has vehemently denied the claim and managing director Lloyd Clark says he can’t understand why the mayor would say they were struggling.
Dr Pettitt had been responding to a complaint from local architect Andrew Adcock about passengers on the visiting cruise ship Queen Mary 2 being greeted by the “derelict” Fort Knox building .
“Unfortunately pre-sales have not been a quick as the developer would have liked, so work has yet been able to start,” Dr Pettitt replied, copying in the Herald.
“Fremantle council is working with [Match] to assist the best we can to get the worthwhile development underway.”
He later told the Herald post-GFC “nervousness” by banks had contributed to the delay and noted some Mandurah apartments had halved in value.
There were also, “expensive build costs compared to the east coast where cost per square metre can be almost twice as cheap” and, “most apartments recently have been at the luxury end of the market and Fremantle mandating of smaller more affordable and sustainable apartments is still an emerging market”.
Mr Clark said 70 per cent of the warehouse apartments in stage one had been sold off the plan.
“The conversion of the landmark building into ‘New York Style’ warehouse apartments, renamed ‘Heirloom’ will not only bring life into the area, but will also create a gateway icon for the city of Fremantle.”
Last year the council shrugged off opposition to its controversial amendment 49 agenda, which aims to create 20,000sqm of retail space, 70,000sqm of offices and 2000 apartments across 12 sites in the city’s East End.
Dr Pettitt says the amendment 49 changes had been made with a “long term planning strategy” in mind.
“The scheme amendment is locked in stone. This won’t have any impact on its future except for potentially some minor tweaking.
“I have no doubt that the time will come when these developments become economically viable as they would have been pre-GFC.”
Property consultant Gavin Hegney says Fremantle is the last frontier for inner-city apartments and doubts the market will get bogged down in over-supply.
“I think the existing demand is there, so I don’t think they will struggle to sell— 200-300 apartments wouldn’t be enough and 10,000 is too much, so something in between will create that vibrancy.
“At first I thought it was an ambitious plan, but sometimes ambitious plans are required.”
Local property developer Bruce Moriarity, a close friend of the mayor’s, says, “without doubt amendment 49 would be a success”.
“It will happen. I just wish I was part of the project,” he said.
by BRENDAN FOSTER