Checking out

CENTRAL Fremantle will be without a major supermarket for nearly two years, with Coles expected to close its doors early in 2020 to make way for the Woolstores redevelopment.

A media representative from Coles reassured local shoppers that Coles “will absolutely remain part of the community … and  redevelopment”, pledging there would be “not one job loss” during the estimated two-year construction period.

“All team members would have the opportunity to relocate to nearby Coles supermarket, liquor or fuel outlets,” she said.

The supermarket is viewed as a vital anchor tenant, but an ongoing wave of shop closures has rocked the centre, along with reports of increasing theft, harassment and drug abuse. Online rumours began to swirl on Thursday between Coles employees in online chat groups, speculating about the supermarket giant failing to renew its upcoming lease.

The rumours coincided with the end of the public consultation period for Woolstores development application.

Despite the plans not yet having approval from the state development panel, other Woolstores tenants approached by the Herald coyly admitted they were expecting to be out by January 2020 as month-to-month leases expired.

Several said they’d been told to expect full closure for redevelopment by the end of February.

The new development plans, now on their third major iteration after being repeatedly knocked back, were praised by mayor Brad Pettitt as “potentially the best design yet”, although his understanding as of mid-November was that “Coles will stay open during construction”, which no longer appears to be the case.

Danicia Quinlan, CEO of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber “eagerly awaited…approval for the Woolstores redevelopment”, noting “the pipeline of new apartments, boutique hotels and daily workers into the city” would increase demand for household and supermarket items.

The current plans include, in addition to a revamped Coles, an underground carpark, child care centre, 141-room hotel and a 5670sqm police station, which will be welcome news to any regular patrons.

Indeed, one shop assistant who declined to be named said she was recently threatened by a man fresh from the High Street police station where he had been charged with theft. He promised to “put her underground” and “have his wife deal with her”, all because he thought, inaccurately, that she had dobbed him in – when in fact observant police spotted the man’s pants still had anti-theft tags attached.

Her story is far from uncommon, with the Liquorland robbed twice on the day the Chook visited, while shrieking emanated from the dilapidated public toilets, just beyond the shuttered centre management office.

Meanwhile just around the corner in Point Street, Malaysian developer SKS Group has submitted new plans to Fremantle council for a seven-storey, 168-room hotel with apartments, shops, a bar and a restaurant.

The long-delayed project would replace the Point Street car parks.

by JUSTIN STAHL

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