WITH its redevelopment currently under consideration by council, COLIN NICHOL argues for a feature arcade, not a tower, on the central Fremantle Atwell Building site.
IT is puzzling as to why five storeys should be proposed for the redevelopment of the Atwell Buildings and Arcade between the High Street Mall and Cantonment Street, when council guidelines clearly allow for three at most, four under very particular conditions.
That regulation, achieved after long discussion and expert consultation and in the face of opposition to high-rise of any kind in the city’s heritage heart, seems clear enough.
Along with its waterfront, Fremantle has only its heritage to sustain it and any creeping undermining of that would have long-term damaging effects.
The incremental creation of precedents itself has historically unhappy precedents and, by degrees, could write-off the diligently achieved guidelines of council’s planning scheme. Is this a test case?
There is potential for this development other than height alone. Surely, the logic is to take a lateral view of the planning and examine ways of maximising value out of the property by means of stunning design and function, increasing the value of the investment by quality rather than quantity.
That a financial return must be achieved is not contested but the property was purchased in full knowledge of the rules and this very special project should fit them. Simplistic perhaps but fact, and heritage and cityscape should not pay for ambitious financial return.
This site offers an amazing and unique opportunity, calling upon vision and imagination to create new heritage and lead the way in redevelopment of part of Fremantle’s history. There is only one location like it and the construction of another is unlikely. It is not a building with an arcade but an arcade with a building and calls for an original approach to a very rare and exciting development prospect that must be right for today and into the indefinite future.
That the present arcade is not as successful as might be desired only argues for a more effective design. Bravery is also required in meeting the challenges of building in the heart of a fragile historic city and of embracing the possibility of producing an award-winning design.
Picture the potential of this large, central location with its street-to-street arcade. This could become a building so attractive as to have businesses queuing to take up premises with exciting design supporting them, making this a “must-visit” attraction. A commercial building should “sell” itself and this one could do that remarkably effectively, as well as lifting the surrounding city centre. The focus needs to be on the possibilities of the arcade as the key attraction not, in central Fremantle context, a “tower block”.
Reviving the public toilet facility of the original plan would be another guaranteed way of increasing attraction to the centre!
This redevelopment should be designed from the inside out. There are plenty of exquisite arcades as examples and one with two or more gallery levels, would surely become a focal point for the city. Intensive retail—attractive, smaller boutique-style shops—would maximise return on investment; that has been done elsewhere. Upper levels could provide services and professional premises with a prospect from balconies over the promenade below. It is desperately important for Fremantle that this site becomes something much more than is currently intended, just another office/shopping complex.
The opportunity to achieve that will come just this once.