Pioneer Park to fall victim to progress?
A THIRD of Fremantle’s Pioneer Park, opposite the train station, could be handed to developers under new plans to transform Victoria Quay.
Plans drawn up by local architectural firm CODA for Fremantle Ports were revealed to a select group Wednesday and will be officially released to the public today and next Saturday at the E-Shed markets.
In one option said to have been heavily pushed by the architects, most of the south-western side of Pioneer Park—bounded by Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and Phillimore, Pakenham and Leake Streets—was shown as commercial offices.
Buildings up to 10 storeys are proposed for Victoria Quay, dwarfing the current port city skyline.
The CODA plan splits the development zone into three precincts: a 3.75ha commercial zone on the port, a 6.4ha zone that includes the railway station extending north to the passenger terminal and the 2.6ha Pioneer Park zone.
The 30,000sqm set aside for commercial space is double that of the failed ING plan, while the 10,000sqm for retail is 2000sqm less.
Former councillor June Hutchison attended the briefing and raised strong objections to the prospect of losing much of the park.
“I argued we need all the green space we can get with the influx of residents that is expected in the city,” she later told the Herald.
A reason given for building over the park was it’s not fully used, but she’d rather see more effort put into making it more attractive than seeing it buried under concrete.
Overall, she describes the plans as “complex” and says it is difficult to yet judge whether they will create the connections between the port and the city that CODA is aiming for, and whether there’s enough trade in Fremantle to keep both the CBD and the quay viable.
While a new pedestrian bridge across the railway (replacing the one torn down a decade ago) will make it easier to get across, there remains unresolved issues regarding buses barrelling down Queen Street, she says.
David Hawks, the Fremantle Society representative on the port’s inner harbour committee, says much of what was outlined is just a recap of previous meetings.
“They elaborated on the commercial precinct,” he says.
Mayor Brad Pettitt, who’d told the Herald prior to the October council elections that a development footprint on Pioneer Park, shown on preliminary designs, was merely for a recreational space like a youth plaza, is sticking to his story—despite the council being a project partner in the quay development.
“I don’t recall the exact conversation you mention, but what I said was correct at the time and actually still is.”
He says the only formal position of the council at this stage is a heritage plan put forward in 2009, which has distinct green, recreational and archaeological areas. Under the current plan, there is room for a small historical centre.
“The CODA plans for Victoria Quay put [development on the park] forward as an option to increase connectivity between the Fremantle CBD and Victoria Quay but to be 100 per cent clear this has not been agreed to by Fremantle council,” he told the Herald.
He says it would require the land to be rezoned and the council was not committed to any such action “at this time”.
“My personal position on this is that I would only support such a proposal if an equivalent or greater amount of higher quality green space was created nearby to offset any loss of green space at the back of Pioneer Park.”
Former deputy mayor John Dowson, who’s vying to be new Fremantle Society president, was also at the presentation and was horrified, both by the plans to build on the park and the scale and design of the commercial precinct.
“It’s not really any different to the ING plans, they’ve just shuffled some of the cards around,” he says.
He says there’s one note of dark humour in the plan: A proposed hotel on Leake Street, which has connections to Kings Square developer Sirona, was being touted as deserving extra height because it would offer passive surveillance of Pioneer Park.
Fremantle chamber of commerce CEO Tim Milsom says the park is not a great space: “It’s underutilised, but we don’t want to lose any more green space.”
Former Fremantle Society president Roel Loopers blogged: “There is also no new public green space planned for the VQ development. That is disappointing as cities like Sydney are desperately trying to increase green space, while Fremantle is decreasing ours. That is not acceptable.”
by STEVE GRANT and CARMELO AMALFI