Importing Danish logic

RACHEL PEMBERTON is a Fremantle councillor. She’s been to Copenhagen and liked what the Dane’s have done to their port. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED she talks about how Freo could learn from the Danish approach to urban redevelopment.

A  RECENT visit to Copenhagen led me to unexpected lessons in urban redevelopment of an inner city port.

A friendly local told me about how 15 years ago the City of Copenhagen decided it wanted to make the waterfront the ‘living room of the city’.

The day I was there, thousands of people flooded to the precinct to enjoy markets, entertainment, water activities and food.

This is similar to the vision the City of Fremantle has for integrating our working port better into the city.

In Copenhagen, they relocated much of the heavy industry components of the port to the outer quay and reclaimed land off it, allowing the area adjacent to the city to be redeveloped.

• Copenhagen’s waterfront

Cycling links

There was a range of land uses introduced, including extensive residential development, commercial offices and retail as well as tourism, hospitality and arts. An exceptional new opera house was constructed on the waterfront, former port sheds were converted into wonderful food markets, new pedestrian and cycling links were built, historic ships were on display and cruise ships berthed close by. There was even a wind farm on the still functioning port side!

The result was a vibrant hub, where people could enjoy the waterfront in a range of ways with ideal tourism facilities that were also a great benefit to locals.

The City of Fremantle identified the connection of Victoria Quay to the Fremantle CBD, via a more open train station forecourt as a key Transformational Move for our city’s future. These ideas must be carefully considered as the State government continues to debate the proposed sale of Fremantle Port, so as not to rule out the possibility of making it happen.

These ideas are similar to recent experiences in many North American and European port-cities (eg: Baltimore, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver; London, Amsterdam, Liverpool, Oslo, and Hamburg) that experienced waves of development as industry closed down or moved and shipping facilities relocated to deeper waters and where more land or better transport connections were available.

Today, Copenhagen’s waterfront is a vibrant hub. I was impressed by high quality building design and public spaces with new waterfront arts and entertainment facilities overlooking the ongoing port functions.


I can just imagine Victoria Quay being an extension of Fremantle’s CBD in years to come. A precinct that offers a waterfront tourism and recreation destination, perhaps with a purpose built Aboriginal cultural center in the vicinity where Captain Fremantle landed in 1829?

It could include a welcoming gateway for cruise ship visitors in an easy stroll to the CBD, the train and bus station. Perhaps a hotel, some residential and commercial development overlooking the working port on the North Quay and maybe even a wind farm.

Fremantle is one of WA’s most popular tourism attractions, yet we have had no investment in tourism infrastructure in decades. If we want a more successful and vibrant city in years to come, we have to prepare for it now. Whether or not the ‘sale’ of the port occurs, we must work to ensure the vision for an integrated waterfront port development is not ruled out in the process.

I invite the state government to work constructively with the Fremantle council on these matters, so we can all win.

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