Empty shops draw a crowd

THE thorny issue of Fremantle’s empty building crisis helped pack out the monthly Politics in the Pub at the Local Hotel in South Fremantle on Tuesday night. 

Event organisers Christian Mauri and Robert Delves said the topic, Getting More out of Freo – Empty Buildings and Rates, had been one of particular interest with representatives from Fremantle council, business and community members attending.  

“We try to have topics which represent the interests of the audience,” Dr Mauri said.

Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge attended the event and noticed some ideas being brought up were very similar to the round table conversation she had with members of the arts community last week as part of a review of the city’s Community Strategic Plan. 

“Some cities have spaces for artists that are not about making profit or filling an empty shop until it gets tenants, but are an incubator,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The panel of speakers consisted of Fremantle councillors Adin Lang and Ben Lawver, Spacemarket’s Sarah Booth, and Rosslyn de Souza who’s running the Street Gallery in the city’s CBD. 

After 10 months representing the Hilton ward, Cr Lawver remains optimistic about getting life and vibrancy back in the city’s retail district.

“It was really interesting to hear wonderful ideas about what other people have experienced in other parts of the world and some ideas that could potentially work here in Fremantle,” Cr Lawver said.

Creative industry

He was particularly positive about the work Ms Booth has done around Fremantle, transforming and renting out spaces for people in the creative industry. 

Retrospectively, housing for people in creative industries was a topic Cr Lawver wished was discussed in further detail.  

Cr Lawyer said there were creative people “making great creative things…but how can we make sure they are living close enough to Fremantle to be able to continue to do what they are doing”, he said.

Tuesday’s event attracted over 100 people with event organisers having to bring in extra chairs and extra tables. “It was overwhelmingly positive,” Dr Mauri said. 

He hopes to redefine people’s perception of politics. 

“Oftentimes when people hear the word politics, they think about it negatively. 

“They will think about different tribes throwing shade about one another on the internet or political parties trying to get votes. 

“When we talk about ‘politics’ what we typically mean is ‘how can we live with one another and understand one another better?’ 

“So we are trying to flip the negative associations with politics which often drives people away, to a positive approach which brings people in. And last night was an excellent example of that with the amicability of the conversation.”  

Next month’s event will take place on September 27 at The Local Hotel and likely be about Freo’s traffic bridge, with Dr Mauri hinting at a panel consisting of an engineer and people with alternative ideas.


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