Fit for a King?

COLIN NICHOL is a former retail leasing and centre manager. He has been trying to delve into details of the Kings Square.

KEY number for the Kings Square development is “2020”, a completion date previously optimistically projected for 2016, 2018 and late 2019.

Latest date is mid-next year for the two government department buildings. The civic, administration and library building is slated for “toward the end of 2020”.

Fit-out for the two almost-completed government department buildings should begin September or October with the staged arrival of workers in March or April.

Which raises the other important number of how many personnel will fill those buildings.

That figure has been put at a stepped range between 1200 and 2100 or more, most of which are right – and wrong, depending upon how you count them.

Then-premier Colin Barnett said in November 2016, “about 1500” would move in with the departments of Housing/Homeswest, Transport and Corrective Services.

Various reports supported this; it is now confirmed that Corrections will not be included.

None-the-less, that number of 1500 persists, also quoted by council, while the developer says 1600.

A supplement to those figures comes about when the hoped-for number of occupants of commercial tenancies is added, predicted at 300, if businesses take up all available premises, a considerable challenge.

Word from a fly on the wall so far has been it’s a case of “after you”, while the developer reports, “Over 100 expressions of interest have been received to date and a number of tenancies are under contract. It’s progressing well”.

Coincidentally the former heritage Atwell Arcade building has been another case where 300 new workers were promised, but the great majority of nearer 30 who moved in were recycled from other parts of the CBD.

The theoretical total is therefore 1900 at best, about equivalent to past staff losses at Fremantle Hospital. Some estimates increase that by town hall administration staff numbers, which is irrelevant; they will just be returning. Hence some fuzzy figures.

Council is taking a loan of $20 million, increased from fifteen just five years ago and an original estimate of $6.38 million.

While cautiously retaining the option to do so, rates were expected not to rise beyond CPI and to help facilitate that, they increased them by some compounding 4.75 per cent, over the past two years.

Repaying debt within ten years as envisaged is significantly dependent upon rates and rents income from the square, assuming expectations are met. A noteworthy formula.

There has been no word yet on marketing for the project.

Considerable promotion to launch and effectively maintain it could run into six figures and may well be an ongoing commitment to keep it stable.

The developer promotes, “The project, to include two office campuses with 20,400 square metres of office space, a revamped, 800 bay car park, outdoor retail, entertainment and eating areas and a $50 million civic precinct for the city of Fremantle, was a unique opportunity to take a retail risk”. And how significant an improvement to city business would a different administration building make from the previous?

Kings Square is trumpeted to, “kick-start Fremantle’s much-needed revitalisation”. Soon a new town square is soon to be delivered from beginnings longer than seven years ago. At a town hall morning meeting on 1 December 2012, the promoters and finance advisors of the scheme urged: “Trust us”. It is not long now until the numbers in the project will be put to the test.

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