Port ‘innovation district’ flagged for Freo’s future

FREMANTLE’S post-port future took a big step forward this week with the first major report released by the Future of Fremantle Planning Committee.

The Place and Economic Directions report takes a broad look at some of the opportunities raised by stakeholders for the redevelopment of the port’s 260 hectares once most of its operations move south.

While housing is identified as expected, the report flags creating an “innovation district” where “leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators”.

Committee chair Jane Bennett told the Herald it would be unique to WA, as Bentley’s Technology Park didn’t have the opportunity for workers to live close to where they work and mix with other innovators.

A mix of housing, industry and retail is one of the defining features of innovation districts such as the old shipyards now known as RDM Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Ms Bennett said Fremantle’s proximity to the coast, along with its rich character, gave it a headstart.

“It will be a natural destination and is likely to attract people with footloose skills,” she said.

• Rotterdam’s old shipbuilding yards have been transformed into an “innovation district” where creative workers mix and live.


“The next thing to explore is what kind of industries they are and what do they need, because the reality is we are not going to get Google to move in tomorrow.”

The report ties Fremantle’s future to the emerging Western Trade Coast, and Ms Bennett says she can see companies leaving their “dirty” manufacturing in the Australian Marine Complex and adjoining industrial areas and having their developmental sides operating from the innovation district.

Ms Bennett said the committee had looked at the precinct in terms of its opportunities to support the state’s economic prosperity, but also how it would interact with the rest of Fremantle.

“We want the city bursting at the seams so this area is filled with the overflow.”

The report flags Fremantle as a “waterfront city” with recreation opportunities, but Ms Bennett’s said no one’s raised “crazy theme parks” as a possibility.

“I think the main things to get access to the water,” she said.

“There’s a 10-kilometre waterfront, but you can’t get to it; people can’t use the water.”

The committee met with around 80 Noongar elders, and Ms Bennett said their knowledge would be valuable in regenerating the land around the Derbal Yerrigan/Swan River to make it more accessible.

There was also a push from Fremantle’s arts community to have a shared space on Victoria Quay, and Ms Bennett says there are already spaces that could house circus, theatre or content creators in the port’s historic sheds.

“There have been opportunities discussed, but there are not any tenants at this stage,” she said.


“We don’t want to say ‘no’ to any opportunity.”

Ms Bennett said the next phase will be a visioning process to determine “what is palatable for the community” and what logistics would be needed, with three “preliminary scenarios” to be developed before the final option is presented in 2024.


One response to “Port ‘innovation district’ flagged for Freo’s future

  1. Should the Port Authority ever decide to relocate, what future for the building? For many years I have believed this building could be transformed into our PORT HOTEL /HARBOURSIDE APARTMENT’S with it’s own bustling hub, a museum full of port history. Tour coaches on the doorstep Opportunities are endless, just let the mind wonder and this could be a world class destination. Food for thought.

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