The ‘Suffolk’ Hotel – What Do You Think?

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News

So, folks, we brought you news of this development application for approval of a/an Hotel, office and shop as soon as we spotted it.

It’s at the corner of South Terrace and Suffolk Street, Fremantle. Immediately north of the Arundel Street apartment block and diagonally over the road from the Freo Hospital.

You know those two landmarks well, I’m sure. But just in case you’ve forgotten, here they are again.

Given the location, we thought ‘Suffolk Hotel’ had a nice ring to it, and so that’s the tag we’ve given the proposal. But no doubt in due course, assuming approval, it’ll carry some fancy brand name – like the Fremantle Hilton!

It’s wonderful after all these years to see a real proposal to develop this site. It’s been a proverbial hole in the ground/eyesore for far too long. Congratulations to the applicant for taking this initiative.

Now, just what’s in the proposal?

Well, here’s some of the fine print!

A six storey building with 100 rooms for the hotel part, the main part, and two offices tenancies, one office/shop tenancy and associated car parking. (Wonder if there’ll be a charger for EVs?) By the look of the image below and the terms of the application itself, the ‘shop’ may be a ‘bar’!

Here’s some more detail –

This is one of those development proposals that goes through a State Planning development assessment panel and not directly though Fremantle Council. Some folk like that, some don’t. But that’s the way things work when a proposal has a certain value or classification. City of Freo Council gets to comment on it, but not to decide whether it should be approved or the conditions of approval.

You’ll be interested to know, however, that the City of Fremantle’s DAC – Design Advisory Council, comprised of appointed design experts, has already provided feedback to the applicant. More on that soon.

First, here are my first impressions of the proposal as set out in the application.

My overall impression is that the proposed hotel use is fine. The financial risk lies with the applicant, not the Council or the State Planning authority.

The application covers off all the usual areas you’d expect, such economic benefit, heritage, landscape, transport, acoustics, waste management and sustainability without any matters of great concern arising. You can read more of the detail of those facets right here.

Just how economic benefit analysis is done on these sorts of projects always fascinating me! Here’s what is said for his proposal –

The more challenging issues arising, for me, however are those pertaining to the height, bulk, mass, and design of the building itself. The external design in particular. It doesn’t strike me as exuding a landmark quality, as claimed. I don’t believe you’d make a special visit to Freo just to see it. Certainly not something you’d find nowadays in Shanghai, for example, where architects have for some time been encouraged to be bold.

I’m not sure whether Fremantle has an agreed or inferred Freo style, like Broome developed through the 80s in the hands of Lord Alistair McAlpine and architect Peter Arney. But one wonders whether this is what this building is, or is intended to represent – the new Freo style?

It’s almost as if the applicant and its architect chose to draw design inspiration for the structure from the nearby Arundel apartment building and Fremantle Hospital.

Compare the images again. And read the design and aesthetics statements below.

Perhaps 1960s, late mid-century architecture is back in vogue?

Here’s how the applicant explains the Aesthetics of the proposal in the application.

And here’s the applicant’s comments on Built Form and Scale, which plainly confirm the relevance of the Arundel apartments and Freo Hospital.

DAC also raised design issues with the applicant, in two meetings. Here’s some of the DAC comments and the applicant’s responses to them so far.

So, it’s over to you, dear reader, in whose eye beauty, as well as design excellence, resides. You will have your own thoughts on all these issues and you can register them in the planning assessment process right here right now.

But to me, there can be no mistake that this Hotel proposal will have a big presence on South Terrace, which, when added to the block comprising the Arundel apartments and the Freo Hospital – not to mention the yet to be seen new Freo Police Station over the other side of South Terrace – will be quite imposing. We need to get it right.

Questions.

* Does it need to be 6 storeys?

* Can we not encourage a more interesting design, less hotel-functional on the outside, and somehow more Freo in look and feel?

Can’t wait to see how it all pans out!

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