Getting cagey

COLIN NICHOL rounds up expectations about Kings Square, “a game changer for not only Fremantle, but for the retail landscape across Perth.”

ONE of the much-anticipated significant events for Fremantle is almost upon us, or would have been but for yet another sudden delay. 

Now not March but June, four years on from start, until the final “reveal”. A longer wait to experience the bursting forth of the Kings Square development, the new city administration centre and FOMO, the “beating heart of Fremantle” to, “kick-start Fremantle’s much-needed revitalisation.”

That adjacent, architecturally interesting Walyalup Civic Centre, future home to council and paid for in part, directly or indirectly, by rates increases we were told wouldn’t /didn’t happen, is slowly moving toward completion of its austere finish. 

Its cloak of imperial armour, chicken wire around the coop, is a shock; grey mesh – startlingly dark, very different from the much lighter colouring represented in the published drawings. 

Perhaps birds will join in to enjoy sanctuary behind that cladding for “the vibration that runs through Fremantle focused in one location. The weaving together of art, architecture, culture, retail, food and experience and all that is Fremantle into a rhythm of restlessness”. Hopefully the new administration centre will at least contribute as a curiosity.

Is that cage to keep us out or them in? Will it be electrified? Do you feel it to be intimidating? 

The view from within will be better than that from without. 

To mitigate that dark caged look, so overtly “green” a council might consider “greening” it with a vertical garden of vines and creepers. Or giving it a coat of paint. 

Premises in FOMO, we are currently re-assured, have been fully leased, a commendable achievement, although staying power is the test of such matters. Most businesses would be, “new to Fremantle.” They will be wishing there really is a carrot at the end of that tunnel. 

The claim of, “returning Kings Square to its former glory” is a question of historical reference. 

To which period does that refer? 

When it was a carpark, or merchants around the perimeter and a few on site, when all owned by the church, a time of horses and carts or tram lines, or when it was an open public square? 

As for the era of Myer, they didn’t so much leave Fremantle as Fremantle left Myer. The business centre was more along High Street. 

FOMO promises to be a “cool container for an eclectic mix of organic and free-flowing retail concepts with a borderless experience”.

We are told to expect a “Freo flavour” to an IGA supermarket, thousands of square metres of retail, a secondary school (that is different), a visitor centre and a laneway dotted with “alfresco dining inspired by the hawkers’ markets of south-east Asia.” 

A feature of that laneway is the “king’s crowns”, pop-up eateries, “reminiscent of the work of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi”. They are those white tomb-like structures. 

But all credit for the rhetoric and romance, and good luck – they promise much and we await the revelation. 

Behind that veil of steel enclosing their citadel, council seems up a fig tree over the replacement to the late popular “Christmas Tree”. 

A popular part of the renewal of the square and now on church land, this was clearly not out of intensive care for any lighting ceremony this year, or has all that been ditched anyway? 

The new playground alienates a large part of what little public space remains and further inroads church land. 

That church, gracious odd one out in the square, obstructs some views of the new administration centre, but who knows in the current environment.

The view of that old stone from inside the new centre will be a more pleasing aspect than the return, looking back at that cage.

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