Hopes on high-rise for seniors

FREMANTLE’S next spurt of development might be in high-rise retirement villages, says mayor Brad Pettitt (pictured, right).

Dr Pettitt says it’s too early to release much information but there’s been some interest from developers keen to emulate the success of the RAAFA village in Bull Creek. A lack of large greenfield sites has locked Fremantle out of the growing sector in the past but the mayor says the council’s desire to increase CBD densities by going up makes it an option.

He says Fremantle is a good prospect for retirees because of the nearby services, particularly when Fremantle Hospital’s rejig is complete.

“We want people who have grown up in Fremantle to be able to stay here for the rest of their lives,” Dr Pettitt says.

The Committee for Perth’s first snapshot of Fremantle’s demographics also underlines why developers might be keener to exploit an older population rather than the funky young urbanites the council’s keen to attract.

Part of the Future Freo project, the committee’s report found what was already suspected: the city is undergoing an “ageing boom”. The number of people aged over 65 in inner Fremantle rose roughly three per cent between 2001 and 2011. At the same time the number of children aged under 14 plummeted from 7.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

“An ageing population brings with it opportunities in terms of recreation and leisure industries, having active volunteers and community members and a diverse and experienced workforce,” CfP CEO Marion Fulker said in response to the findings.

“But the challenge for policy makers is to capitalise on these opportunities while recognising the potential challenges around health services, accommodation and public transport.”

But Dr Pettitt isn’t giving up hope of attracting young people. He says the city could take a leaf out of Vancouver’s book and start developing higher-density apartments tailored to families.

“I went to one of these apartment developments and about four/five storeys up they’re stepped back from the front, and where they’re stepped back they have these shared zones, which have a swimming pool and a playground, and they were full of kids.

“Parents really love them because they know there’s always other kids around.”

He concedes Fremantle, let alone the rest of WA, hasn’t got its planning settings right to create this style of living, which is further hampered by the focus on cookie-cutter subdivisions on the outskirts.

The CfP’s report also found the city’s population growth was 20 per cent slower than the metro average, despite having one of the highest density rates.

“What we need to identify is, what factors are contributing to the Fremantle region not growing,” Ms Fulker said. “Even during the height of the resources boom, Fremantle didn’t experience the associated population increases.”

Dr Pettitt says it’s partly due to the fact the city doesn’t have much spare land, but he thinks there’s scope to increase the population by another few thousand.


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