Genesis or Armageddon? An ‘exemplary project’

As we recently reported, by a majority of 3:2, the three specialist members of the Inner-Metro Joint Development Assessment Panel, or JDAP, over the opposition of the two Fremantle City Council members, approved the redevelopment of the heritage listed Genesis/Robert Harper Building in the historic West End of Fremantle. As to whether the ‘breathing of new life’ into the West End – the JDAP majority view – is a good thing or a bad thing is something on which minds differ. Some fear it spells the end of days for the West End, its Armageddon. Others see it as heralding a new day, a new Genesis for the West End and beyond.

In this article, Sarah Booth, General Manager of Spacemarket, Community Development Lead at Hesperia and Fini Group, a member of the Board of Directors at Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, and City of Fremantle’s 2024 Community Citizen of the Year, explains why she considers the redevelopment of the Genesis Building will be an exemplary project.

Look here for other views.

The development of our heritage buildings, like every issue in Freo, is one that I can reasonably acknowledge has two sides.

However, of this particular development application, I believe those in vocal opposition are standing in the way of an exemplary project set to push Fremantle forward.

Artist’s impression of completed development

Full disclosure, I choose to work for Adrian Fini, but I believe few people have Fremantle’s betterment and beauty at heart more than him.

My work with Spacemarket, and with Hesperia/ Fini Group, allows me access to, and sometimes custodianship of, some of Fremantle’s most iconic and treasured heritage buildings. Sadly, most I encounter are found in various states of neglect or disrespect. Luckily, with Adrian’s track record – Perth’s Treasury Building, his 90s Klopper warehouse conversions, Victoria House, Coogee Common, Bread in Common, Lawson Flats in the Lawson Apartment building, and in future, Elders Woolstores, High Street’s Owston Building, the P&O Hotel, and 49 Phillimore Street – there is not a heritage project of his that has received anything but sensitive, respectful renovation and essentially a relevant, appropriate, new lease of life.

I am personally thrilled the JDAP approved the 49 Phillimore Street DA. Having been its custodian these last two years it’s always struck me that this stunning building has been left to degrade to hobbling. Adrian and Nic Trimboli will ensure the building has life and use long into the future – and like most of Adrian’s projects, will elevate our city as a place of design excellence, destination and opportunity. The fact that the project architect is also none other than the highly skilled and hyper-local Michael Patroni, leaves me questioning what future the naysayers have in mind for Fremantle’s West End?

The West End of Fremantle cannot – should not – remain a museum with everyone shoehorning themselves into buildings that flood, crack and splinter. Buildings that die because of terminal vacancy (Princess Theatre) or neglect (The Terminus & Spare Parts).

Absolutely there should be rigorous oversight, but we should equally be celebrating the willingness to invest in intelligent, considered adaptive reuse projects.

Not least because this project also adds residents to our centre – another issue being made a vocal priority. How else are we going to get these elusive 10,000 new residents into Freo if not with these types of projects included in the mix.

Plus, even if the JDAP didn’t apply to Phillimore, Fremantle Council did vote it through anyway…

I say nay to a lot of things (don’t get me started on the police station) but on this I couldn’t be more in support.

I look forward to the future of Fremantle – one bustling with life alongside the ghosts!

* By Sarah Booth


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