Architects earn $7m for civic centre

ARCHITECTS’ fees blew out by 280 per cent on Fremantle council’s new Walyalup Civic Centre and town square revamp, a new report has shown.

Council’s audit committee on Wednesday endorsed the report, which showed the full cost of the renewal of Walyalup Koort had hit $61.2 million compared to the original 2012 business plan estimate of $44.7 million.

The business plan initially estimated architects’ fees would be $1.8m, but one year later the council awarded a $4.2m contract to local firm Kerry Hill Architect.

“However, time extensions due to the delayed commencement of the project and building delays saw the final contract being $2.4m more than the original contract,” the report said.

In the end the fees gobbled up $6.9m of the project’s budget, though $218,000 went to a second firm for the internal fitout.

The final cost of constructing the Walyalup Civic Centre itself was $46.9m compared to the original business plan estimate of around $37m.

“Considering the size and complexity of the project and the challenges faced during construction, including the Pindan collapse and the supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19, a final construction cost for the Walyalup Civic Centre of $46.9m is an acceptable outcome,” Fremantle CEO Glenn Dougall said.

“The fixed price contract signed in 2017 to build the Walyalup Civic Centre was $43 million.

“Independent quantity surveyors estimate the same building contract awarded in today’s market would be $55 million, a 27 per cent increase on the contract achieved.”

Mr Dougall also claimed that “adjusted for inflation” the original $44.7m for the overall project “could be $56m in today’s terms”.

Not according to the Reserve Bank’s online inflation calculator, which reckons the real figure should be closer to $52m.

The report found the project had achieved its aims.

“The objective of the development was to achieve a civic, retail, commercial and community hub reflecting its unique place as the centre of Fremantle and creating a vibrant, active and safe place for citizens and visitors, as well as a leading-edge development demonstrating confidence in Fremantle as a place to invest,” Mr Dougall said.

Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said it was important to reflect on why the council decided to go ahead with the project in the first place.

“Ten years ago, Freo’s local economy had stagnated, Kings Square had become a dead spot in the heart of the City, Myer was moving out, and Hoyts were not renewing their lease on the Queensgate Cinema complex. Something was needed to give the city a boost and restore confidence,” she said. 

“In addition, our old building was full of asbestos, had concrete cancer and didn’t meet modern accessibility standards. We had a report that said it was going to cost more to renovate the old building than knock it down and build a new one.

“It was also going to cost around $14 million to convert the Queensgate Cinema into usable office space, and the Queensgate car park also required millions of dollars in renovations.

“Fast forward to today, and the Walyalup Koort renewal project has delivered the award-winning Walyalup Civic Centre and library, refreshed public spaces, the vibrant new FOMO precinct, and almost 2000 state government employees working in the new offices of the Department of Communities and Department of Transport.

“More importantly, it has restored confidence in Fremantle and been the catalyst for the almost $2 billion worth of investment either underway or recently completed in Fremantle.”

But councillor Marija Vujcic warned there were still costs to come and she believes the final bill will be closer to $56m.

Cr Vujcic said the report vindicated her position months ago that the council was under-reporting the costs, and said the mad scramble to find extra funds by shifting budgets around and “obfuscating” on other projects would come back to bite the council.

She said the council’s delay in replacing the roof of the leisure centre had seen the initial estimate blow out, and she believes plans to rebuild the South Beach toilets are in real jeopardy because there’s just not enough funds available.

“You can feel the cost of [Walyalup Koort] running through every part of this year’s budget,” Cr Vujcic said.

by STEVE GRANT

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