AN 1814-signature petition opposing a high-rise tower at the Royal George Hotel site in East Fremantle was tabled in WA parliament Thursday (August 23).
Friends of the Royal George are calling on the state government to approve an East Fremantle council scheme amendment which would trim Saracen Properties’ proposed 21-storey apartments by more than a third.
The amendment is being considered by the WA Planning Commission, and Labor Fremantle MP Simone McGurk says she will continue to support local residents opposed to the development.
“There is a very clear signal from the community they will not accept an 18-storey tower being forced on their historic neighbourhood,” she says.
Saracen Properties claims it need to build a large number of apartments to cover the $4 million cost of restoring the hotel, but East Fremantle mayor Jim O’Neill says the height is inappropriate.
“It’s East Fremantle; not the CBD,” he told the Herald.
“The Royal George and George Street is iconic, and six storeys is still a big building.
“The community should be congratulated for accepting a six-storey development, not asked to give more.”
Mr O’Neill says he’s hoping to see the amendment approved and is confident it’s based on good town planning principles that “give everyone, including the owners, a lot”.
Fremantle builder/engineer Aaron Titelius says the profits Saracen make from the hotel will likely dwarf the restoration costs.
He says according to the Rawlinson’s Construction Cost Guide Handbook, construction costs for high-quality, multi-storey developments are about $3300/sqm.
Using figures from apartment sales from a local realtor, he says the Royal George development could sell anywhere from $6500 to $10,000 per sqm, depending on height and views.
“We believe Saracen’s argument that this is viable in order to restore is false. They’ll make a huge profit,” Mr Titelius says.
He adds Saracen plans to build a winery/distillery in the Royal George and it might be included in the restoration costs, but Saracen Properties project director Joel Saraceni says “the $4 million restoration cost is to do just that – to simply restore the building back to heritage guidelines.”
“Any fit-out costs such as our winery/distillery involved in re-occupying the building will be added on.”
Mr Saraceni said they won’t make an obscene profit.
“That’s an uninformed comment,” he says.
“You can’t do an analysis such as that without seeing our plans, which no-one has. People have only seen images of the building’s proposed exterior.”
Mr Saraceni says he was surprised by the 1814-signature petition opposing the tower.
“We ran an open day in April and had almost 1000 people through,” he says. “Of them, we only had 74 submissions against the height. We do think there’s a lot of support for what we are proposing, and there continues to be.”
by MOLLY SCHMIDT