‘Monster’ plans for OneSteel site

Exal Group has plans for 23-storey towers on the former OneSteel factory site.

A SECOND major development along Stirling Highway in North Fremantle is set to smash through Fremantle council’s height controls for the area with two 23-storey towers overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Exal Group has submitted a structure plan for the former OneSteel factory site on the corner of the highway and McCabe Street, just a couple of doors up from the Matilda Bay Brewery/Ford Factory, which is currently subject to a development application by Three Oceans Property.

Gateway

The plan shows the apartment towers, on four-storey podiums with a mix of restaurants, shops, entertainment, shared offices and communal health and wellness facilities, fronting Stirling Highway.

Two 13-storey and 7-storey apartment blocks would face McCabe Street, while three-storey townhouses would fill the rear of the 31,100sqm development.

A large parcel of around 4000sqm would be ceded as open space in the centre of the development, though the developer’s plans acknowledge it will spend much of the afternoon in the shade of the towers.

Exal says the development will be a “vibrant gateway” to Fremantle.

“Perched on the coastline, the site offers an opportunity to be a new destination precinct with an inherent connection to the ocean, river and surround infrastructure that will foster a revamped urban narrative and new community experiences,” Exal’s design principles state.

Fremantle council adopted a planning policy to control McCabe Street’s heights in 2009 when it became obvious the large lots would have great appeal to developers as the area’s light industrial activity wound down.

Last updated in 2015, the policy only allows a maximum height of 25 metres on part of the OneSteel site if certain conditions are met. The two towers are about five times taller than the 14-metre ceiling in their zone.

North Fremantle Community Association president Gerry MacGill described the proposed $500 million development as “a monster, absolutely”.

“It’s even more grotesque than the one on the Ford Factory site.”

He said Exal will be hoping to get a precedent when Three Ocean’s development comes back before the state development assessment panel, noting it had a representative to support its neighbour when it first came up.

Yield

At that meeting, Three Oceans argued that developers needed extra heights in order to reach their properties’ yields without creating squat, prison-like housing.

Mr MacGill says that doesn’t have to be the case.

“Has no one gone to Paris and seen a civilised form of high density,” he said.

He’s also urged Fremantle council to look at a recent change to how the City of Bassendean deals with large developments which are ultimately decided by the state development panels.

Bassendean now completely replaces an officer’s recommendation if the council disagrees, though it also provides an explanation of why it was changed.

“I think the council should seriously look at this procedural change which gives the council much more say,” Mr MacGill said.

The former chair of Fremantle’s design committee, architect Geoffrey London, did a peer review for Exal and says an important part of the design would be promoting a sense of public “ownership” of the ground level.

“The increase in deep soil zones allows the potential to create an enticing urban ‘forest’ to [the public open space] which, together with the promise of the nature playground and the commercial ground floor offerings … provide strong attractions,” Prof London said. He suggested public access to the top of the highest tower, perhaps with a restaurant overlooking the sea. Prof London says the heights would be “problematic” for the community and council.

by STEVE GRANT

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