THE new owners of the historic Elders Wool Stores on Cantonment Street say they have no plans to revisit the extra heights approved under previous owner Marylyn New.
Hesperia this week confirmed it had purchased the 20,000sqm site, reportedly for $6.85 million, with an eye to a mixed residential/commercial redevelopment that would capture and extend the character of Fremantle’s historic West End. That would be somewhat ironic given the city’s budding renaissance was predicated partly on the council truncating the heritage-listed precinct to give developers extra height incentives.
Hesperia director Kyle Jeavons said they would spend the next three or four months doing a “forensic study” of the building, but hoped approvals could be in place in around a year.
“There’s holes in the floors, and you can see when you look around there’s concrete cancer, there’s asbestos on the top levels,” Mr Jeavons said.
“I think like most of the heritage projects we do, we’ll try and let the buildings tell us what can go into them rather than trying to force their hand, but I think that’s the process we’ll be going with [heritage architect] Phil Griffiths who has a deep understanding of the social importance as well.
“But now we just think the massing of the building is appropriate as it is.”
The site actually contains two buildings, the main one constructed in 1927 for Goldsborough Mort and Co, with later additions in the ‘50s and late ‘60s.
Mr Jeavons said that gave Hesperia the opportunity to “push and pull the buildings internally”, with the likelihood of an atrium to try and flood the space with natural light.
“What we are going to look at is how we actually cut through the middle of it to get the public extending from these landscaped areas through to [Victoria] Quay as well.”
He says Hesperia was encouraged by the redevelopment of the Woolstores Shopping Centre next door,
as well as other developments cranking up in Fremantle, but it hadn’t been a deciding factor in their purchase.
“I mean, we obviously see the positives. Without question the city needs a deeper residential population, so on this project we will have a range of housing opportunities; everything from probably one-bedroom houses to terraced housing that can accommodate families as well.
“And I think every time you get a project like this, all of a sudden more investment comes on the properties around it.”
Hesperia is part-owned by Little Creatures backer Adrian Fini, who’s connection to the port city stretches back to the early ‘90s when his company won a construction contract from the state government for Challenger Harbour.
“It’s always been a place that has a history of buildings that just can’t be replicated, so that’s probably why we continue to have a desire to try and do work here,” Mr Jeavons said.
by STEVE GRANT