The product

COLIN NICHOL calls on Fremantle traders to look to themselves

THERE’S a hole in Fremantle central; something is missing, which is participation by some of its businesses.

The current significant surge of interest in developing the central city area for hotels and apartments may be a hopeful sign of more residents and visitors to come, but the point is, that’s far down the road. 

More than the work of council and Chamber of Commerce is needed to sustain the city in the interim and consolidate its image and viability. 

A “self-help” approach is called for, to complement what they do.

Excess retail

But is the CBD declining or are we expecting too much, is it actually just settling to its natural level, are there just more shops than the market requires? WA has long had an excess of retail. 

When it comes down to it, there are similar cafes, bars and restaurants everywhere; it’s where they are that makes the difference and it’s Fremantle’s difference that provides the imperative to visit. 

“Fremantle” is an adjective in itself.

A link with the sea and port should be more evident within the city, other than seagulls and the city’s heraldic crest with its sea lion and trident. 

Heritage and history are central, but not alone. It’s the whole package, the lot, the “product” that has to be sold.

And everyone needs to be involved.

That product needs to be attractive. What needs to be done is not so much to effect change but rather to accentuate what is already there, to let the saucy old girl of the sea sell herself.

To do that, it needs to look its best and be cheerful and welcoming. Those footpath slabs are drab, which adds to the impression the city is dirty.

 Slowly, some parts of town are taking on colour to overcome the predominant black and grey but much more is needed. 

Bring on lights, music, colour, entertainment: a skilled guitarist in a café, an oompah band wandering the pavements. 

Businesses need to discuss with each other what they might do to control their situation rather than be subject to it. Shopfronts, the eye-level prospect, need colourful improvements to brighten the footpaths.

Music (appropriate and at controlled level), spilling out of doorways, a waft of brewed coffee and of fresh-baked bread rolls, plants, colourful furniture and screens; these help make the magic. 

You can think of more, you’re on the spot, you see what is needed.

And on a less romantic but essential level, alfresco footpath areas kept swept and washed down, in the same mode as tables and chairs are promptly kept cleared and cleaned. 

Sometimes it is possible to be too close to the matter to realise what should be done.

It’s a matter of fashion – Fremantle has to become fashionable again, not just at night.

What has changed? People expect more.

Over to you, think about what more you can do to help yourself. 

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