As our regular readers know, we at the Shipping News have been banging on about saving and redeveloping the heritage South Fremantle Power Station for some time.
When we heard private interests were wanting to buy the Power Station and the Minster for Energy and Synergy, the nominal owner of the site, were reluctant to say publicly who was wanting to buy it, we banged on about that too. So much so that the Minister phoned your editor to excoriate him for doing so.
Then the prospective sale to interests associated with Mr Kerry Stokes fell through. Presumably because when the would be buyer did their sums, the return on investment was insufficient. Which is fair enough if you are a private investor using your own money, and even if the Government were prepared to give you the site pretty much for nothing.
But now that that prospective sale has collapsed, where to from here?
Well, plainly the ball is back in the Government’s court. Not Synergy’s court, the Government’s. Why? Because it is the Government that must now decide whether it is prepared to undertake the redevelopment of the site.
The time has arrived for the Government to bite the bullet, do it’s own sums, and decide either to knock over the Power Station, keeping a relic for ‘interpretive’ purposes – which is the time honoured way to say you’re honouring heritage when really you’re not – or do a full scale redevelopment itself – that is to say, the State becomes the developer. The returns may be slim, but the outcome would be a massive heritage and tourism gain for Western Australia, not just the Freo and Cockburn local government areas, but them too.
And if you’re looking for a recent model of what can be done, have a look here at this illuminating article in the architectural magazine Dezeen at the just finished redeveloped Battersea Power Station in London almost 40 years after it was decommissioned. Much like our Power Station. It officially opens on 14 October.
The redevelopment includes over 100 shops, 46,000 square metres of office space and 254 apartments.
The structure has been refurbished and rebuilt, with the architects, WilkinsonEyre, aiming to retain and emphasise as many of the power station’s original spaces and materials throughout the design.
This has resulted in the introduction of the suspended office accommodation within the Boiler House section that allows the north and south elevations to be seen from inside, and preserves views up to the towering chimneys.
In other areas the new structure has been stepped back to allow the original spaces to breathe and tell their story.
Anyway, pore over the Dezeen article and photographs showing the design outcome and begin to imagine just what South Fremantle Power Station could be!
We look forward to hearing soon from the Minister for Energy as to his and the Government’s next steps.
* By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News
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