Why is the City investing in Kings Square?

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Why is the City of Fremantle rebuilding the current administration building rather than refurbishing it?

Council carefully weighed up all the information available and decided a full redevelopment of the council’s civic and administration building will best meet the long-term needs of the Fremantle community.

While serving its purpose for more than fifty years, the current building is highly inefficient from an environmental and operating cost perspective; suffers from concrete cancer, has significant asbestos contamination issues and does not meet legal disability access requirements.

A complete redevelopment will look better, function better, cost less to maintain and operate and will mitigate the need for costly extensions and technology upgrades in the future. All of this while delivering better facilities and customer service experiences to the people of Fremantle.

 

What evidence was there to help guide the decision to rebuild rather than refurbish?

An independent order of cost estimate report prepared for the City in 2012 by GHD Engineering Australia showed it would cost more than $28m just to refurbish the existing building to a minimum required standard of function, accessibility and safety and more than $50m to refurbish and add new extensions.

It was recognised from this report that refurbishing the building was still going to result in a sub-optimal building which had been added to many times and would not fit in with council’s vision for a quality precinct-wide redevelopment of Kings Square. A refurbishment, although addressing asbestos and some other structural issues, would not activate the public realm and the connections with the town hall would remain inadequate. Based on this report and wanting to deliver a range of community benefits in the most cost-effective way possible, council decided a rebuild was a far superior option to refurbishing the existing building.

The new building also incorporates high standards of Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) which will provide significant improvements in energy efficiency and maximise the use of renewable energy sources.

 

Can the City afford the new building and will it require rate increases or deplete reserves?

The recently adopted principles of a new 10 year financial plan has shown the City’s long-term finances would be strengthened as a result of the Kings Square development. The plan demonstrates the City is able to deliver the Kings Square redevelopment without the requirement to raise rates above CPI levels with debt and reserve levels able to be reinstated within 10 years.

Bringing major commercial activity back into the heart of Fremantle through the Kings Square renewal and its broader catalytic effect has the added bonus of the City being less reliant on residential rates. This allows us to provide more services to residents with lower rate increases going forward

The key elements of this plan:

  • The project construction costs will be funded over the next four years, through land asset sales (Queensgate building and carpark), loans and council reserves.
  • There will be a significant commercial rates uplift from the Kings Square and other development from around years 5 to 10.  
  • Rate increases have been modelled to remain at CPI levels, meaning council does not have to rely on rates increases to fund the project  
  • The new building is expected to provide significant operational savings in terms of maintenance and energy efficiency resulting in a reduction in City operational costs from year one. 
  • By year 10 the City will have paid off the debt from the project and will have restored its reserves to current levels.

 

Why not just let Sirona develop the Myer and/or Queensgate site(s)? Why is the City investing in a new civic administration building?

The City investing in its own building and making the sale of the Queensgate building and carpark dependent on a total redevelopment of all buildings has guaranteed a precinct-wide renewal which was always council’s intention.

Renewing Fremantle’s civic heart was critical in the City and Sirona winning a bid for state government departments to relocate to Kings Square. Sirona have said publicly they would not have been willing to invest in the precinct unless the City of Fremantle also invested in and improved the civic and community facilities at the same time.

Council is leading by example by committing to a high-quality sustainable development that will become the heritage of the future and by ‘building it once and building it properly’ council is directly investing into the future of Fremantle as Perth’s second city.

 

What is the heritage impact of the new building on Kings Square and the Fremantle Town Hall?

An independent Heritage Impact Statement prepared by Griffiths Architects  has shown the new Kerry Hill designed building will enhance the heritage aspects of Kings Square, improving the functions of the town hall and  public spaces in Kings Square .

The new building will connect better to the town hall, providing universal access where the current building was unable to and will allow the town hall to once again become a true focal point of the square as it was always meant to be.

The report by the architect states: The new building has the prospect of integrating town hall and civic functions, providing strong interaction, and will contribute to the urban context, returning the town hall to prominence.

Some of the ways the new building will improve town hall heritage values:

  • Connecting the first floor heights of the town hall building (currently these levels are out of alignment).
  • Allowing access to conserve the damaged rear wall of the town hall and the auditorium floor which is currently inaccessible due to the current civic building design.
  • The main lift core in the new civic building will provide universal access to first floor rooms in  the town hall along William Street. A secondary lift in the exhibition/function space will providing access to the balcony level of the town hall auditorium.
  • The new building’s exhibition/function space will have direct ‘breakout space’ to the auditorium, including new public toilets.
  • A larger plantroom on the new building will accommodate an air-conditioning plant for the town hall auditorium. This removes the need to build a new plantroom on top of the town hall that would be costly and potentially harmful to its heritage values.

The report was critical of the current 50+ year old building saying it had failed to make a positive contribution to the urban setting of Kings Square, was intrusive, dislocated the town hall from its administrative functions and was past its useful life.

 

What are the community benefits of the broader development?

The new civic building will significantly enhance the available community facilities, public realm security and activation and the commercial vibrancy of the city centre.  

A true community asset, the new building will provide:

  • new state of the art public library with approximately 50% more additional space
  • a parents room associated with the children’s library
  • eleven (11) meeting rooms/spaces that the community can use
  • multipurpose council chamber room
  • lobby / foyer to council chamber
  • urban room (grassed publicly accessible slanting roof to the library) which includes an undercovera terraced area at the top of the urban room.
  • universally accessible change facilities for adults and children
  • new modern and accessible public toilet facilities within the building.
  • exhibition / function space in the ground floor foyer (connected directly to the town hall).
  • a much improved and more functional public realm.
  • improved customer service via innovative design of lobby area which will incorporate the use of wireless technology to improve customer service.

Other aspects of the new building that will help to activate the city centre and/or improve public safety include:

  •  a new café/restaurant with al fresco dining in Kings Square
  • additional commercial spaces on the third floor, bringing more workers into Kings Square
  • improved frontage to Newman Court to reactivate dead spaces and increase passive security
  • new retail tenancies on the ground floor along the western side of Newman Court
  • vehicle service access by way of a dedicated new loading dock (unlike existing parking of commercial vehicles in front of the civic building entrance on Newman Court which is unsightly and potentially unsafe).
  • improved public access to the building from all parts of Kings Square -  More entries and exits means greater flow of pedestrians in and around the new building.

Find out more about the City's involvement in the Kings Square project by visiting the Kings Square Renewal project page