Space for all

• Drone image of Kings Square showing the empty space where Fremantle council headquarters will be.

FREMANTLE resident MARTIN LEE is furious that the redeveloped Kings Square will be home to the council’s new administration building. He says the amount of public open space at the square should be maximised and council’s HQ should be located in one of the many empty buildings across the city.

WHERE in the world would a progressive, sustainable council build its admin offices over its historic town square?

The answer is absolutely nowhere–except in Fremantle!

I commend the Fremantle Society for its recent full page ad in the Herald, which illustrates the extent to which  the city has misled the public over the redevelopment of Kings Square.

The truth about Kings Square is finally starting to unravel…

Sirona’s redevelopment of the area adjoining Kings Square is nearing completion, while Fremantle council continues to tinker with its own admin building design and costs; six long years after voting to proceed.

Sirona apparently did not require final sign-off of the city’s admin building before redeveloping its Myer site; contrary to what we were led to believe.

Council has repeatedly insisted this was one development, but this is not so.

The two projects have always been physically, commercially and legally independent of each other.

Sirona is redeveloping its properties along the south east boundary of Kings Square to locate the department of housing and a new retail precinct; as can clearly be seen from the Fremantle Society’s drone photo.

Council has already demolished its old admin building and is planning to build a giant concrete box over our public open space.

The Sirona project alone will rejuvenate Kings Square, so why undermine their impressive redevelopment by pushing it into a back alley created by an oversized and unnecessary new admin block. Fremantle would benefit greatly from the Sirona buildings fronting directly onto an open town square.

The city’s admin offices can be built somewhere else: Fremantle council’s decisions have brought the city centre to its knees over the past nine years, resulting in plenty of disused offices and derelict sites around the CBD to choose from.

Why does council keep insisting on degrading our important public open spaces, when environmentally progressive local governments around the world are doing the opposite?

Type “World’s best town squares” into Google and see what we are missing out on.

However, for a good laugh type in “Public square design
concepts”, and scroll through the pages of stunning open spaces designed for liveable, breathable and walkable cities.

You will stumble across just one concept that confuses “public square” with “huge building”.

You have to love Freo council–so cutting edge.

Council’s admin building is estimated to cost ratepayers $44 million, excluding demolition and interior fit-out costs.

The City of Fremantle could easily build a four-level open plan office building in Fremantle to house its 400 admin staff for significantly less than half of this cost.

Who asked for “Brad’s Palace” anyway? It’s not too late to change plans, as council staff can stay where they are for now.

The public benefits and cost savings would more than justify a complete re-think.

The City of Fremantle misled ratepayers when it stated that the new admin building would be funded from cash flows inherent to the project itself; because in 2018 council needed to secure a new $20 million loan to fund the admin building.

Back in 2012 the City of Fremantle granted Sirona an option to purchase three strategically important properties without a public tender process.

Sirona recently purchased these properties from the City of Fremantle, worth close to $50 million, for just $29 million.

Council agreed in 2012 to sell the Queensgate Centre to Sirona for just $6.35 million, despite a 2012 City of Fremantle presentation clearly stating its value at $15.9 million.

Mayor Brad Pettitt has often attempted to defend the property sales as at fair market price.

Again the facts are coming out, with a 2018 finance document from the City of Fremantle now indicating a loss on sale of properties of $12 million. Yet another inconvenient truth…

Sirona exercised its final option when it purchased the Spicer Site in late 2018, and then re-sold the property just two days later for a profit.

Fremantle council had extended this option as recently as mid-2018, even though it was not required to.

Council granted Sirona a fabulous risk-free windfall profit at ratepayers’ expense. Why?

Ratepayers should be furious about this ongoing financial, civic and environmental mismanagement.

Our councillors should be expected to explain their conduct.

I strongly advise anyone who truly loves Fremantle to go down to Kings Square and spend ten minutes standing near St John’s Church and imagine what legacy council should be leaving for future generations.

Imagine a green open space of social, cultural and economic value where people congregate and communities interact.

Think of your favourite town squares on your travels and ask yourself what you would like to see in the heart of your city.

If you are not envisaging an oversized concrete box then you had better stand up and become very vocal, because it really is now or never to save our town square.

• How Kings Square could look without the council headquarters.

One response to “Space for all

  1. I totally agree with reinstating public space in our square and those were my initial thoughts when I went down and had a look after the demolition. So ironic that a green council fails to manage heritage trees on the site and fails to reinstate public open space when given this golden opportunity. It’s either gross mismanagement or someone or persons are benefitting financially and its clearly not ratepayers. Perhaps the state government should investigate this ‘deal’?

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