Fremantle waterfront development to be bigger than Elizabeth Quay: MayorFremantle council wants to develop the Fremantle Port land into a entertainment precinct. Photo: Philip Gostelow

Fremantle waterfront development to be bigger than Elizabeth Quay: Mayor

Brendan Foster

The City of Fremantle has a radical plan to transform land in front of Fremantle Harbour and the Swan River into one of the biggest waterfront developments Perth has ever seen.

The council wants to develop 120,000 square metres of prime waterfront land from the WA Maritime Museum down to South Quay, just past the Fremantle Traffic Bridge for housing, hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants.

The majority of the land leased to the Fremantle Ports by the Barnett government is currently used for storing new cars.

The council faces one major hurdle: the WA government put the port up for sale at the last state budget to pay off a whopping debt, and is expected to fetch more than $1.5 billion.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt realised he had a fight on his hands to get the WA government to part with the prime real estate, but he estimated the land sale could pour more than $250 million into the state’s kitty.

Dr Pettitt said he expected the port city would work with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority or LandCorp on the project so the state government would be part of the development.

“This is a once-in-a-generation project and it will be bigger than Elizabeth Quay and the Perth City Link combined,” he said.

“Imagine a publicly accessible historic port waterfront from the WA Maritime Museum down to the Fremantle traffic bridge,” he said.

“Imagine the Fremantle Passenger Terminal not surrounded by a sea of parked cars but instead being part of an attractive precinct to greet cruise ship tourists. Imagine restaurants, bars and cafes overlooking the working cranes across the water on North Quay.

“At the moment some of the lowest-value land uses like parking cars and unloading scrap metal are performed on some of the best and most valuable land in WA.”

Dr Pettitt said he did not see the port moving out of Fremantle, but wanted to put a cap on the number of containers coming into the port city.

He had previously been outspoken about the Barnett government’s plans to sell the port, saying it would drag the port city into an economic malaise it may never recover from.

Dr Pettitt said he expected to be savaged by critics who would be happy to see the Fremantle container port go entirely and just be a “port that does tourist, navy, and novelty ships”.

“In this scenario Fremantle would continue as a container port but with containers limited to a long-term cap of between 500,000 and 800,000 per year [it is at around 740,000 now],” he said.

“This cap means it would be possible to confine the port operations to the North Quay side of the port and liberate the South Quay from port operations and finally reconnect Fremantle to its waterfront. A capped Fremantle port and a second harbour doesn’t have to mean the end of the working port in Fremantle.”

Dr Pettitt said he didn’t want to see the waterfront project turned into another touristy, soulless Darling Harbour-style project.

“The port gives Fremantle a key part of its sea-salty soul and we should do all we can to keep that,” he said.

“With a bit of creativity and good planning we can have the best of both worlds: a bigger Fremantle CBD that is better connected to its unique waterfront and a continuing working port which provides an important economic and cultural backdrop to Fremantle.”

“The City of Fremantle is currently getting some economic modelling done on this to present to the Department of Treasury who are looking at the Fremantle Port sale.”

Fremantle Ports and Treasury Mike Nahan have been contacted for comment.

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