THE Spicer site in Henderson Street has stood empty for far too long.
As a key site in the middle of a world famous heritage town it needs high quality development that fits in, and will become the heritage of the future.
Much of the site formerly was taken up by Brockhoffs who sold self raising flour and dodgy vinegar. By 1930 their building had gone, and so for over 90 years the site has been vacant.
Then council bought the four-storey William Detmold building (Spicers) next to that, demolishing it to create the current car park.
The unusual, for the time, four-storey height, is being used now as a reason to have a new six-storey building – but it is one which covers the whole site, whereas Spicers in fact only had a modest 20 metre frontage.
Fremantle council has demolished some perfectly good buildings in its time and Spicers was one of those.
Council’s management of the site in recent years has been unfortunate.
Firstly they sold it cheaply to Sirona instead of putting it out to tender.
Then they allowed Sirona not to develop it or even pay for it. They then allowed Sirona to sell it to Andrew Forrest for $1 million profit, a profit which should have gone to the ratepayers.
During the heady days of the America’s Cup, Jeremy Dawkins was in charge of Fremantle’s planning, and he wrote a policy for the site which has conveniently disappeared from discussion.
But Mr Dawkins, who went on to become the chair of the WA Planning Commission, and is today a leading Australian urban planner, says this week the policy ideas are still relevant.
They include appreciating the site’s role as a key strategic one opposite the warders cottages, the only residences in Western Australia important enough to be on the National Heritage List.
His policy states that a new building on Henderson Street should not appear higher than two-storeys, and William Street maximum height should be four storeys.
He, and local architect Carl Payne, have also expressed concern at the aggressiveness and scale of the new hotel proposal.
Developers look across William Street to the awful six-storey car park and want a new building higher than that.
They need to look around their site, especially at the Sail and Anchor Hotel and Henderson Street, and appreciate they are planning something right in the middle of a heritage town.
It would be good with this development application to avoid another controversy such as Mr Forrest’s proposed hotel in Cottesloe at Indiana, the sheds in front of the Burt residence in Cottesloe, or the obliteration of river views at his UWA development.
The Fremantle Society is hoping that as owner of the site, Mr Forrest’s legacy in Fremantle following numerous recent purchases will be as outstanding as that of his relative Sir John Forrest. Sir John’s contribution to Fremantle was so magnificent council voted in 1901 to erect
a memorial gate and drinking fountain to him 100 metres from the Spicer site at the entrance to the oval. That memorial is yet to appear, but the council at least had the right thought.
by JOHN DOWSON Fremantle Society president