Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The state of Freo's infrastructure

A couple of weeks ago my wife met me in Perth on a Friday evening. We had a cocktail (before giggling behind your hand, know that the one I had was Ernest Hemmingway's favourite) and then strolled around for a couple of hours enjoying the Friday evening vibe.

During our walk my wife commented about how the look of the city had markedly improved since the early days of our courtship ten years ago, when a night out in Perth City meant dodging vomit slicks on the pavement and making sure your hepatitis innoculations were up to date. It didn't happen overnight, but the city has gradually been transformed into a place of clean pavements, sufficient lighting and populated streets that I'd be happy to visit. It seems to me that the City of Perth are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding that investing in quality infrastructure gives a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting people.

The City of Perth isn't alone. Recently work began on improving the look of one of Perth's premier main streets - Bay View Terrace. This Perth icon is being transformed to the tune of almost 4 million big ones with the desired outcome being that the street attracts more people. The good work of the City of Perth over the past decade and the news that Bay View Terrace is being upgraded got me considering the state of central Freo's infrastructure, which isn't exactly our city's finest point. I'll begin with two of my sore points: the Town Hall and the Cappuccino Strip.

The Town Hall

Freo is fortunate enough to possess some fantastic heritage buildings. The east end of town doesn't have as many survivors as its western counterpart, but it does still boast the amazing Town Hall. This awesome building is a hotspot for tourists and one of Freo's most iconic landmarks. Even better, the Town Hall is under the care and attention of the City of Fremantle, so there's no need for us proud residents to worry about some skinflint landlord letting this beautiful building run down...or is there?

Some photos of our rundown Town Hall

Not a good look for Freo

Sparked by some emails by John Dowson, I paid a visit to the Town Hall on Saturday and boy is it shameful. The grand entrance is completely dilapidated, covered in peeling, mouldering paint, with chunks of the columns rotting with rust. The exterior doesn't just look old, it looks absolutely filthy. What kind of message does this send to the tourists that come to photograph our gracious Town Hall? No wonder all the ones I saw taking photographs were using their wide angled lenses.

So what can be done?

I'd like to think that the City has a long-term maintenance programme for the Town Hall. It isn't rocket science, is it? Let's see this programme funded over the next three years, so that by 2015 my three hundredth post can be dedicated to the sparkling upgraded Town Hall.

The Cappucino Strip

Compared to central Perth, I'm afraid to say that Freo's favourite place for having a coffee has taken on a decidedly uncared-for appearance. Don't get me wrong, I don't want the Cappucino Strip to be something straight out of Clone Town Magazine or Stainless Steel Monthly. What I would like to see is clean bins (that aren't filled to oveflowing every weekend) and without pavement stained by god knows what underneath. The road surface and footpath look like they were laid around the time that the America's Cup was kicking off. Walking along these footpaths people can take delight in checking out old chewing gum, vomit and food stains, as well as plenty of miscellaneous discolourations that I'm grateful not to be able to identify. Old bollards that need a fresh lick of paint or replacing aren't a good look for our premier street.

What can be done?

I'd like to see Council dedicate some much needed tender love and care to the strip over the next three years. Budgeting for the street should take into account the introduction of shared space, some decent street trees (following the successful streetscape enhancement trial) and a couple of kick ass entry statements.

It's also the little things that count

For me, the Cappuccino Strip and the Town Hall characterise the general dilapidated state of central Freo's infrastructure. When my wife and I walk around the city centre there are far too many little examples of rundown infrastructure. Unfortunately the only logical conclusion that a reasonable person can come up with is that the Freo just don't care.

I think that I'd be able to stomach the big ticket items a little more if the City could show they did the little things properly. Bins cleaned regularly and rubbish picked up so that they don't overflow. Dodgy looking bins replaced. Bollards painted or replaced when they've been dislodged. Cracked pieces of pavements replaced. Why are some trees in the High Street mall still enclosed by tacky looking fencing? Cleaning the gum from Freo's Walk of Fame.

What can be done?

Simple, the City can start showing that it cares by investing in doing the little things well.


For me, the state of Freo's infrastructure is sorely lacking. Freo is in the business of competing to attract people, residents, talent, businesses. In this competition, quality matters. There is no way of getting around this simple fact.

I'm happy to see that the new Business Improvement District for Freo has been approved. I noticed that it has a sizeable marketing budget. Walking around the central city with its shabby looking infrastructure, I wonder if this money can't be better spent on improving the quality of central Freo's infrastructure, otherwise what is there to be marketed? The Freo Festival of Litter?


  1. Brilliant Michael. I wish you better success than I have had in bleating on, verbally and in print, about this subject, over six or so years. "The shoemaker's children are always ill-shod" (slight mis-quotation), comes to mind. Care for home territory as well as the rest of the world.


  2. Bob Sommerville27 June 2012 at 18:28

    I agree entirely Michael...for a start,whenever I go to a concert or show in the town hall I just hate the awful way the lighting is hung in front of the stage. missing paint, badly done without ANY consideration of the heritage or architecture of the hall. Perth town hall has manage to do it but FReo?...nahh..that'll do. I have raeved about the dreadful state of the heritage places in Henderson Street. Incidentally go to the NATIONAL Trust website and look for anything in Fremantle..http://www.ntwa.com.au/properties/places-to-visit. This is not the COF but you would think they might nudge them to include the most historic precinct in WA as a place to visit. The Capuccino strip is apalling as a modern space. Why can other administrations i the metro area do it so well and Fremantle always seems to get it wrong...eg try finding the entry to Monument Hill if you are a visitor...even Swanbourne street is spelt wrong on two street signs.

    I think Mayor Petit is trying to change this but I think he might like to borrow a pair of size 12's from Bodkins and boot a fair few of the council admin staff right up the *** and out the door. To me there is a culture of laziness and disinterest in some sections of the admin - mostly those that are responsible for keeping the place clean and fixed up. This has gone on for a long time...it is about time something was done about it.

    I repeat, how come just about every admin in the Metro area can do it well but not Freo. Michael you are spot on about Perth. Try Northbridge - from a horror strip that you would not want to visit it is mostly a tidy, well run, well supported area that is miles better than Freo and it chnged quickly as a result of good planning and recognition of what will do it. William St North end was dead but go there now and experience the vibrance and note the tidiness of the streets.

    Perth is the same...from a bleak, lifeless, dull place it has changed so much for the better and continues to improve. As for MYER what a sorry, awful example of poor management and retailing on a world scale. It does not deserve to be in business in Freo so the sooner they leave the better I think. Take a walk tonight and just have a look at the awful MYER store - Australia's leading retailer...check out the blacked out windows and the blown out tubes of the major signs. It is all because of the internet...yeah right.

    I agree Michael with your view of Paris, but it is also smaller towns I have visited in many parts of France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Hungary and more...There is a sense that the administration is doing it's job but in Freo it seems mostly the residents haranguing and complaining gets a little done but there is mostly, not a culture of doing it better that we expect.

    Good onya Michael

    Bob Sommerville