Square deal sealed

IN a major boost for Fremantle’s ailing economy more than 1500 state government staff will relocate to Kings Square by the second quarter of 2020.

Premier Colin Barnett and his finance minister were in Fremantle early Thursday morning to sign lease agreements with Sirona Capital for 17,200sqm of office space for the departments of housing, corrective services and transport.

The government departments are key anchor tenants that will trigger a $250 million redevelopment of the square.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says the project will usher in a new phase of growth in the port city.

• Restaurateurs Giorgio and Francesco Balzarro are thrilled their investment across the road from Kings Square might soon pay off. Photo by Steve Grant

• Restaurateurs Giorgio and Francesco Balzarro are thrilled their investment across the road from Kings Square might soon pay off. Photo by Steve Grant

Traders buoyed

“Once completed the project will generate more than 2100 ongoing local jobs which will provide a massive boost to the vibrancy of the city centre and inject an extra $358m into the local economy,” he says.

Traders around the square were buoyed by the news, although there was still some suspicion about whether it would happen after three years of unfulfilled promises.

Parlapa Italian restaurant owner and chef Giorgio Balzarro says he hopes the extra activity will entice more people away from the Cappuccino Strip so Fremantle has “360” trading.

His son Francesco says they moved in three years ago when the Kings Square project was first mooted, and after hanging on through tough times, are glad their investment may finally pay off.

He says it’s also been positive to see restoration works at the town hall, as it lifted the area, and is expecting a big boost across Fremantle during January’s Falls Festival.

Shepherd’s Newsagents owners Tom and Vanda Dore welcomed the news, but say the council should have had a better short-term strategy to help businesses.

Ms Dore says they have a steady stream of people coming in asking where to buy goods like suitcases or flowers, and after all the retail closures the city’s endured she no longer knows where to send them – other than away from Fremantle.

“It’s embarrassing.”

She said the council also ignored their pleas about anti-social behaviour for too long, and despite bumped up security, it was still prevalent.

Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk said the announcement was long overdue.

“While I welcome this decision, if the government had acted when it first made this commitment in 2012, we would have the development all but finished by now, and it would have taken place under much more favourable market conditions,” she says.

“Two thousand jobs were taken away from Fremantle Hospital when Fiona Stanley hospital came on line.

The state government has negotiated a 15-year lease for the Kings Square office space, with two extra options at a “highly competitive” rate.

Construction is expected to start in July next year — employing more than 400 people — and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK and STEVE GRANT

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