Thursday, 29 September 2011

Create better, safer places for everyone to enjoy

Fremantle is lucky enough to have an abundance of public spaces ripe for improvement.  Shopping should be just one of the attractions that gets people to visit Freo - ideally, our city centre should include great, welcoming public spaces where people go to “meet friends, listen to music, learn, entertain and be entertained by their kids, take part in civic life and much more”, in the words of place maker Julian Dobson. 

Freo has always had a strong festival culture, which should continue to be encouraged.  However, such intermittent influxes of visitors ultimately won’t be sufficient to address issues of economic stagnation.  If Fremantle’s city centre can be made more permanently appealing through better use of its public spaces, it would go a long way to remedying many of our problems.

  • Start with some small wins.  Address the aesthic deficiencies of Freo’s public spaces:  peeling paint and rusty chains on bollards outside the town hall, grubby bins and litter, lack of vegetation, lack of lighting, shabby frontages as a result of red tape holding up restoration…all of which combine to make Freo appear tired and unloved.
  • Also in the short to medium term, look at making some bigger additions to our spaces.  For example: public art (preferably interactive to engage children), interesting street furniture that doesn’t need to be taken in over the weekend, some better vegetation to encourage a village atmosphere, some better lights to show off Freo’s heritage buildings, and even a better skate park in a more appropriate area.
  • Complete and publish a public spaces / public life audit of the Fremantle city centre to quantify the current state of play.
  • Ask community members about what’s working and what needs improving in some of Freo’s key public spaces for some good, local ideas, and use the results to prepare a ‘Place Vision’ - an aspirational statement that details the desired outcome - to provide direction for place making plans.  Each plan will be based on trialling small wins and delivering amenities and activities that people will use and enjoy.
  • Prioritise the funding of creating great public spaces around Fremantle.
  • Review Council's administrative setup to identify how it can deliver better place making.
  • Ongoing monitoring and review.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with the Doctor here.

    The biggest little thing I have noticed travelling to cities around the world is that people congregate in spaces where it appears that someone cares - spaces where it looks as though someone gives a s**t!

    Place making need not be expensive or time consuming as explained by the Doctor above. It may be some plants, street art, seats or something interesting to stop and look at.

    Here are some other things I think could activate Freo's dead spaces -

    1). Food vans - allow a quirky burger or coffee van to trade in a dead space. Instead of making them pay a fee, require that they look after the space and activate it with colour, plants, art, chairs etc. Local traders could have first right of refusal.

    2). Create walking trails. For example, a heritage building trail or a "foodies" trail pointing out places to buy different foods (a great local economic development idea) etc.

    3). Get street artists to create murals and pictures to create interest. If it is not appropriate for them to paint or colour walls, get them to paint footpaths or shock horror - roads. Streets should be places for people, not merely spaces for cars.

    4). Provide more greenery. Streets trees are so important as they makes streets and places more comfortable. The west end and east end are sorely lacking in greenery on the streets. New York and London are softening streetscapes by having huge pots with trees in them. The plants look great and can also be moved if required.

    The plants could be cared for by local residents, a local business association or by selling small, tasteful advertising signs on the side of the pots and then using the revenue for care and maintenance of the street. Asking local residents to donate is another idea to raise funds. People who donate could have a plaque installed in the footpath or on the side of the pot as a thank you. A town in Grmany is using this idea to sell potholes in the road for 50 euros!

    5) The biggest idea is to get more people living in and using these areas. Anti-social behaviour is usually attracted by a "social vacuum". We need creative thinking to fill the vacuum.

    So many ideas .....