FREMANTLE mayor Brad Pettitt is disappointed Notre Dame Uni has broken a memorandum of understanding by purchasing the Old Customs Building in the West End for an undisclosed fee.
An agreement between the university and the council encourages Notre Dame to expand throughout the CBD and not immediately adjacent to its existing buildings in the West End.
Dr Pettitt says it’s not all bad, with Notre Dame considering some student accommodation as part of the Phillimore Street building’s redevelopment.
“The inclusion of student accommodation at Customs House would be welcomed so the West End is activated for more hours of the day and more days of the year,” he says.
Notre Dame vice chancellor Celia Hammond dodged questions about the MOU, but said the uni had explored a number of options outside the West End, but none were suitable.
“Customs House provides a facility which is accessible, flexible, and is of appropriate size and design,” she says.
Ms Hammond added that Customs House provided an opportunity to increase ground floor activation of Notre Dame’s existing buildings.
She said NDU is still pursuing a nursing and midwifery school at the “wedding wall” on the corner of Cliff and High Streets, but with a new building to tizzy up, that might be on the backburner. In the meantime Ms Hammond says they’ll tidy up the site.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson says the boutique university already owns 46 buildings in the West End.
“You don’t want to accentuate the monoculture resulting when you have so many properties in a small area owned by one entity,” he says. “The loss of rates from the very large Customs Buildings will be substantial,”
But Mr Dowson’s happy former owner CBD Rev Holdco’s plan for 120-odd apartments overlooking Phillimore, Henry and Pakenham Street has been dropped. He says those plans, which were rejected by Fremantle council and the South Metro JDAP, “made a mockery” of the West End.
Tony Martin, director of Anton Capital, which managed the building’s development for CBD Rev Holdco, says an opportunity came to sell to Notre Dame and they took it.
“We know the university already owns buildings within the area,” he says. “We have been in contact for some time.”
by MOLLY SCHMIDT