Fremantle Stuff > Buildings > Westgate


Westgate was the name given to the block bounded by Adelaide, Queen, Cantonment and Point Streets. The L-shaped Westgate Mall was intended to give access to shops in the shopping complex. It was to be served by the parking building now called Point St Parking Station, but which was originally the Westgate Car Park. In fact, the car park was originally included in the Westgate area, and Point St was closed off to make it easier for people to get from their cars safely into the Mall. The area has been completely changed since the 1960 photo below was taken, and is about to be radically changed again, with the building of a large new building at 52 Adelaide St (formerly Spotlight/Coles).

This, in 1960, was the relevant block before the building of the Mall, in FHC image #170. City development project - Adelaide, Queen, Cantonment and Point Streets. Shows area prior to the building of the Westgate Mall and car park. The Westgate Mall was opened on 16th December 1965 by the Minister for Industrial Development (later Premier) Mr C. Court. Total cost for the development 2 million pounds for 27 retail shops and banking premises. (See map from Constructional review May 1966) Westgate car park opened December 1965. Architects: Oldham, Boas, Ednie-Brown and Partners. Structural Engineers: Halpern and Glick. Builders: Fairweather and Son. Adelaide Street and Queen Street - old shops demolished July 1964. Bairds Pty Ltd (now Target) opened 20.09.1965. Architects: Hobbs, Winning and Leighton. Structural and Mechanical Engineers: Hobbs, Winning and leighton. Builder: Suburban Building Co. G.J. Coles Ltd opened 14.10.1965. Lockes opened 28.03.1965. Haslam House - two storey dwelling, Queen Street - demolished cAugust 1964. Congregational manse - Adelaide Street - demolished 1962. Johnston Memorial (Union) Church - demolished December 1968. Johnston Court Flats opened July 1970 on site. Cantonment Street. Elder Smith building, 1927, extended 1938.


This is Murray Edmonds' 1968 slide, FHC image #ES00213. View of Westgate Shopping Centre and Mall from Point Street. “Westgate” was developed as a Council initiative to stimulate the city’s commercial and retail industry. Hailed as an excellent example of co-operation between local government and private enterprise, this shopping complex was officially opened on 15 December 1965 by the Minister for Industrial Development the Hon. [later] Sir Charles Court. The Mall featured was designed to provide access from the Westgate Car Park through to the shopping complex and beyond. Note: Adelaide House on corner of Adelaide and Point Streets built pre WWII. Johnston Memorial Church (1877- December 1968). The church was replaced by a ten-storey retail/residential development in June 1970.


And this is Murray Edmonds' slide from 1971, three years later, taken from the same point on top of the Point St Parking Station, FHC image #ES00291. Johnston Court Flats Adelaide Street in centre (built 1970). Shows corner of Adelaide and Point Streets. The Point Street Parking, formerly Westgate Parking Station, on the corner of Point and Cantonment Streets was opened on 6 December 1965 with bays for approximately 400 vehicles. [The number may have been fewer: tba.] It was built as part of the “Westgate Shopping Centre Project” to rejuvenate the city’s retail and commercial industry.

Letter to the editor, Fremantle Herald, 17 September 2016, from John Dowson, President, Fremantle Society

High rise not needed

HISTORY will show that mayor Pettitt and councillors Hume, Nabor, McDonald, Waltham, and Jones are happy to see new developments in the heart of Fremantle as high as the detested 1970 Johnston Court block of flats.
They are the ones who voted to allow an eight-storey, plus basement, plus rooftop clutter, development to go through council’s planning committee to the development assessment panel, despite a legal opinion by council’s own lawyers that council could not approve the eighth storey.
The mayor and councillors danced around the legal advice and decided to let the DAP decide. On this former Spotlight site (originally Coles) adjacent to Westgate Mall, 72 residences, 7 commercial tenancies and 97 cars will somehow be jammed into the 1390sqm site.
On this block bounded by Adelaide, Queen and Cantonment streets, on 15 December 1965, Charles Court opened council’s Westgate “Super Centre”, a transit orientated development with Bairds, Coles, and Walsh’s as key tenants. It was promoted as the ‘shopping mecca of the western and southern suburbs.’ It wasn’t long before Myer came to town and wanted something bigger and so within seven years the centre of gravity shifted to King’s Square and Westgate Mall went into decline with Myer (which opened 1 August 1972) and the adjacent Queensgate (1987) becoming the latest salvation of retail in Fremantle.
The photograph [second one above] showing all the paving leading into Westgate Mall was taken in 1968 from council’s Point Street car park (the first split level car park in WA) soon after Westgate Mall opened. In the background stands the handsome Johnston Church, weeks before it was demolished to make way for the Johnston Court flats seen in the second (1971) photograph [third one above], which also shows the new Crane House at the rear.
Soon after Johnston Court was built in 1970, the mayor and some councillors were aghast at its negative impact, and promised that something like it would never be built again. But here we are 46 years later and neither the mayor nor any councillor blinked when the developer for 52 Adelaide Street argued that Johnston Court was ‘adjacent’ and could be ‘built up to.’ Once 52 Adelaide Street goes through the DAP next Monday (9.30am in Fremantle Council Chamber) the rest of the area could well be blighted with such heights.
As we stumble through history from Westgate to the next council project Queensgate and now Kingsgate (council’s flawed $52 million administration centre plan for King’s Square), it appears council has not learnt any lesson from any of Fremantle’s major projects. In particular Johnston Court, Crane House, and Myer are large boxes that have blighted Fremantle for decades. We are about to get more.
The mayor said that nothing ‘but a bomb’ could improve the Westgate Mall area, hardly a considered planning argument for that small part of Fremantle which sits between the important heritage areas of King’s Square and Princess May Park. It may be run down and lacking investment but at least it has a human scale that suits Fremantle.
The solution for Fremantle’s regeneration is not high rise nor super high density housing creating the slums of the future.
Rather, we need the high quality new buidings we were promised by this council, and some ‘bomb proof’ sensitivity to whatever site the mayor and councillors next lay their eyes on.

Email newsletter from Fremantle Society 20 September 2016


52 Adelaide Street (former Spotlight/Coles site)

The 8 storey proposal shown above for 72 flats, 6 commercial tenancies and 98 car bays was deferred at the state government's Development Assessment Panel (DAP) meeting yesterday (Monday 19 September).
Two Fremantle councillors, Crs Sullivan and Pemberton, voted with one other DAP member to have the matter deferred so the developer could bring back revised plans showing parts of the building above 21 metres being set back as per council policy. Councillor Sullivan proposed the deferral and it passed with a narrow 3-2 vote.
The developer is seeking 8 storeys straight up from the street with no set backs. Council's lawyer insisted that it could not be approved, but the applicant's lawyer cleverly shredded the council officer's report to argue otherwise.
The Fremantle Society has invested a great deal of time on this issue because of its importance, and the fact that any variations to the current scheme that are approved will set a precedent for future developments in this city centre area.
For the Fremantle Society, four architects scrutinised the plans and the officer's report, and all were scathing at the quality of the report written.
The council report recommended refusal on grounds of:
a) height
b) detriment to amenity under clause 67.
(though nowhere in the officer's report are the arguments presented to support that refusal)
Despite the officer's recommendation, Mayor Pettitt, and councillors Nabor, Hume, McDonald, Walthan, and Jones all voted to send the item to the DAP to let them decide on the legal advice. By the time it got to the DAP, somehow the officer's recommendation for refusal had turned into a glowing approval. The applicant's lawyer said she had been at the planning meeting and that there had been 'a unanimous decision to approve.' The applicant said that council staff 'are clearly supportive of this plan'. The chair of DAP Ian Birch said that 'the alternative recommendation (for approval) had been adopted by the planning committee.' Remarkable stuff.
The Fremantle Society presented their case and a Fremantle lawyer was brought in to present for the Fremantle Society as well. This is a very complex case with many facets and issues to be dealt with, but the focus from DAP was mainly on how could the developer have the extra storey he was seeking.
The applicant's aerial view of the 52 Adelaide Street proposal as shown is dishonest and should not have been allowed to go forward by council officers. The drawing shows Johnston Court as being significantly higher, whereas both are almost the same height. The applicant has shown his building bathed in light on the facing side, whereas the same side of Johnston Court is ominously dark. Also there are no lift overruns or rooftop clutter shown on 52 Adelaide Street, clutter which always ends up adding considerably to how buildings are viewed around town.
Claudia Green from FRRA was there and supported the Fremantle Society case, as did Julie Matheson from Scrap the DAPs.
Further details will be provided of the expert analysis from Fremantle Society architects.


This was Adelaide St in 1899, in FHC image #1628. View taken from the Town Hall Tower: a postcard panorama of Fremantle from Robinsons. On the right side at the front is the roof of St John's Anglican Church; immediately behind is Elizabeth Terrace, demolished in 1973 and behind that is Johnston Memorial Church, built in 1877.

The area on the left of the street in the photo includes what would later be the Westgate shops. Buildings which still remain today are the Boys School in the middle of photo, and the Australia Hotel on the river, left rear. The Johnston church was replaced by the Johnston Court flats.

References and Links

Three photos and related data above from the Fremantle History Centre.

Letter from John Dowson, Fremantle Herald, 17 September 2015.

Newsletter from Fremantle Society, including an image.

Garry Gillard | New: 20 September, 2016 | Now: 20 September, 2016