How Perth's William Street heritage strip turned hipWilliam Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

How Perth's William Street heritage strip turned hip

Once home to rats, squatters and vandals, William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip.

William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie Tomlinson William Street today: The revived inner-city strip. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

William Street as it appeared before. Photo: Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority (http://www.mra.wa.gov.au/projects-and-places/perth-cultural-centre/about/features) William Street before its transformation. Photo: Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority 

The rejuvenation of Northbridge’s William Street has so far been a nine-year project, led by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority but requiring the concerted and co-ordinated efforts of government, private investors and retailers.

The result has been a revitalised retail and dining strip extending from Brisbane Street in the north down to the Horseshoe Bridge on the city’s fringe.

The footpaths now have people. While still retaining a lot of its gritty inner-city edge, shoppers are now looking for locally designed fashion or quirky homewares and stop for coffee.

Punters can either head to the cheap Asian eateries that have long been the hallmark of Northbridge or head to the new crop of hip (Lucky Chan’s Laundry and Noodle Bar) or fine (Shadow Wine Bar) dining establishments.

A photo posted by Lucky Chan’s Laundry (@luckychansbar) on

Then of course is the crop of rooftop (Mechanics Institute) and laneway (Ezra Pound) small bars that dot the strip.

None of this is by chance. The state government’s $6 million investment in the revitalisation of William Street is now reaching its end with the resurrection of Rechabites Hall.

With the state-funded William Street revitalisation project ending, the test for the strip will be if small independent retailers can survive in the face of rising rents – day-time retailers, in particular, because many of the new openings focus around night-time activities.

Mechanics Institute. William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie TomlinsonThe popular Mechanics Institute rooftop bar venue. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

The rejuvenation story began back in 2007 when the MRA acquired a series of buildings on William Street, constructed during the 1890s gold rush through to 1925.

“At this time, the buildings were badly maintained with pest infestations, squatters, vandalism, litter, ad hoc additions and structural safety issues,” MRA chief executive officer Kieran Kinsella said.

William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie TomlinsonThe MRA wants to ensure the area stays vibrant and activated during the final stages of development. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

With significant cultural and heritage value as the biggest group of commercial buildings in Perth’s inner metropolitan area to have survived late 20th century development largely intact, the aim was to protect the heritage of the premises while revitalising a previously neglected area of Northbridge.

In 2009, the MRA began work to restore 16 properties.

“Traditional materials were used to recreate shopfronts and awnings in the spirit of the original facades, public areas were upgraded and a targeted leasing strategy was implemented,” Mr Kinsella said.

“Unique and complementary tenants were deliberately targeted, with many original tenants retained since 2010 and some having increased their product offering.

“Short-term pop-up tenancies are also offered from time to time to ensure the area continues to be vibrant and activated while final development is completed.”

William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie TomlinsonA vibrant community precinct with a blend of retail, dining and cultural venues. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

The government’s investment also attracted private investors – with new industries, restaurants and businesses – to the area.

“Take a walk down William Street today and you’ll find a blend of retail, dining and cultural venues, with edgy fashion stores, independent designers and a melting pot of culinary experiences,” Mr Kinsella said.

“It is now a vibrant community precinct and a thriving home for creative industries, restaurants and galleries.”

The Alex Hotel. William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie Tomlinson The boutique Alex Hotel on the corner of James Street. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

The final piece in the puzzle is the re-establishment of historic Rechabites Hall as a vibrant creative and cultural hub, with a live performance hall, music venue, pop-up presentation space and food and beverage options.

In April it was announced Happy Heart, led by developer Adrian Fini and local arts advocate Marcus Canning, was the preferred proponent to resurrect Rechabites.

William Street’s heritage buildings have emerged as a hip destination, reviving the fortunes of real estate on the strip. Photo: Angie Tomlinson William Street is credited with driving the overall transformation of Northbridge. Photo: Angie Tomlinson

Under the proposed agreement the developer has committed $3 million to building restoration.

Construction is expected to start late this year and take 12 months.

“The resurgence of William Street over the past six years has had an undeniably positive impact on the overall transformation of Northbridge into the cultural heart of Perth,” Mr Kinsella said.

Keep up with Commercial Real Estate news.

Check out our Privacy Policy.