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'Henderson Hotel'

Henderson Street, corner of William Street, proposed 2022.

The six-storey plan was approved by JDAP 23 September 2022.

An Andrew Forrest company, FiveEight, is to build on the corner of Henderson and William Streets a 'boutique' hotel - a six-storey, 117-room, $35 million project, including basement parking, shops, and a rooftop terrace with swimming pool.

"Approval is sought for comprehensive redevelopment of the subject site to accommodate a part five, part six-storey, 117 room Hotel development that includes Restaurant, Small bar, Reception Centre and Public Car Park uses as well as basement level car, bicycle parking and end-of-trip facilities at No. 10 (Lots 374 & 375) Henderson Street, Fremantle."

The City of Fremantle requested responses from the community. What follows first is Jeremy Dawkins' response, published here with permission.

Submission on Spicer site Fremantle DAP004/21
29 July 2022
I object to the proposed development of the Spicer site. Not because the site should remain as it is – this gap in the city should be used for an activity that contributes to the city centre. Fremantle can benefit from a new hotel, along with a hotel’s other activities and connections. A substantial and handsome building on this site would be a real asset.
I object because the façade of the proposed building is assertive, even aggressive, rather than polite and aware of its context. Unless the council expects, or maybe intends, that the warders’ cottages will be demolished, its primary responsibility is to require an appropriate building form on the other side of the street. It’s not difficult to work out what that form should be. It is short-sighted and irresponsible to allow anything else.
I object, even more strongly, because the building is over-scaled. Anywhere else it might be enough to calculate the expected demand, or the economies of scale, or the minimum number of floors for efficient lifts, etc. To do so in Fremantle is to diminish the city rather than (i) contribute to the city and (ii) reinforce the very qualities that people stay in Fremantle to enjoy.
Fremantle as a mature city centre demands mature and patient governance that is fully aware of how cashing in on the city’s very strong qualities will weaken them. Once that begins to happen the decline will be hard or impossible to reverse. That’s the story from many other places.
Fremantle is too important (to the local community) to allow that to happen. Instead:
• The assessment process must start with the context and the whole city, not with what might be viable or might be an opening bid.
• The city has all the legal, planning, regulatory, policy and negotiating tools it needs to achieve the right outcome on this site. It should not be reticent in demanding the right outcome, and should fight hard for it if the decision goes the wrong way and/or there is an appeal.
• The city should, if necessary, use its other tools if negotiation demands it: transferable development rights, offsets, incentives and swaps. The fact that the owner is a long-term investor and has a number of sites in Fremantle makes such negotiations more likely to succeed.
• The city should call on public opinion. It is unlikely that the owner, and the architects, want to force their initial concept through the process if it is widely seen as unsympathetic, excessive, greedy, etc.
It comes to this: the city’s qualities have evolved through nearly two centuries of organic place making. Fortunately, post-war attempts to scrap the past and start again failed. In the sixties and seventies there were some well-intentioned but destructive developments, and they still stand out. This building will be added to that negative catalogue if it is built in its present form, and no-one – community, council, owner – would want that.
The city government’s primary task is to respond to community needs and a changing economy – keeping the city alive and evolving – in ways which, increment by increment, heal the city.
A determination to do so is essential in achieving a good outcome for the Spicer site.
Jeremy Dawkins

The following opinion is that of Agnieshka Kiera, who was the City of Fremantle Heritage Architect for many years:

I strongly oppose the proposal submitted by Andrew Forrest to redevelop Spicers Site in its current form. Regardless of its alleged compliance with the general provisions of the planning policy, it would be disastrous redevelopment for Fremantle if it proceeds as proposed. The potential redevelopment of the Spicer site is critical to Fremantle. The site and Paddy Troy Mall form part of the significant historic town as defined in 2009, in the Fremantle City Council’s initial submission to the then Heritage Council of WA for State Heritage listing. The heritage assessment report prepared by Rosemary Rosario of Heritage and Conservation Professionals has outlined the substantially larger precinct of the city, defined as Fremantle Historic Town, as being of state heritage significance. It includes the Spicer site, Paddy Troy Mall, William and Adelaide Streets of Kings Square, the Town Hall, the pedestrianised section of High St, Market Street on both sides and Fremantle Railway Station.

The larger area underwent the statutory consultation process and received the preliminary endorsement of the Heritage Council of WA. Even though it was later defeated for political reasons, including the behind-the-scenes manipulations of the then Mayor of Fremantle, the sound heritage values and reasons for nominating Fremantle Historic Town as being of state significance, remain undeniable. Those values and reasons to protect the larger area have been already well articulated in the submissions by the former WAPC chairman and the City of Fremantle Director of Planning, Jeremy Dawkins; local architect Carl Payne; and the President of Fremantle Society, John Dowson.

"Too bulky, too tall"

I strongly agree and endorse their views and combined conclusions that the proposed development of the Spicer Site is plainly WRONG. It is too bulky, too tall by at least two levels and too alienating aesthetically to fit in the small urban grain of its immediate setting and the city as a whole. Its proposed architectural style is too contrasting to harmonise with the urban architecture of the city. The proposed building is too much aligned with the visual aesthetics of the 1970s parking station across the road, which in all expert evaluations, the publicised views of many prominent Fremantle personalities, and, most importantly, the community’s sentiments, have been defined as an abomination.

Thus the characteristics of the current proposal are contrary to the overriding premise of the Council’s local scheme and its many policy objectives for a harmonious and sustainable redevelopment of Fremantle. In my professional opinion as a heritage conservation specialist, there are already too many out-of-sync, out-of-scale, nondescript contemporary boxes around the heart of Fremantle that threaten to undermine and isolate the listed heritage area.

And the recently built Civic Centre is one of them. While I fully support the general argument of Carl Payne’s submission [below], I disagree with his concluding comments that the new Civic Centre has been well integrated with the heritage precinct. Therefore just one more out-of-scale and bulky contemporary box spreading out of the redevelopment block east and south of King Square into the historic town, can easily tip the already fragile balance between old and new to the point of no return. The point where the conventional ominous redevelopments would become the dominant feature of Fremantle thus isolating, if not ruining its identity and character as a relatively coherent, unique, creatively adapted, 19th-century port city.

"Urban Healing"

The heritage recommendations of the initially proposed larger area identify the Spicer site and Paddy Troy Mall as suitable for what Christopher Alexander defines as ‘healing’. Urban healing involves careful planning and redevelopment of a city by augmenting its significance, reinforcing its resilience and ensuring long-term sustainability in a harmonious way. The kind of infill redevelopment that would integrate the surviving heritage buildings (Sail and Anchor, Federal Hotel and across the streets, Fremantle Markets, Henderson Street cottages, former Technical College building, Town Hall) and the surviving, contributory buildings which hold the historic streetscape relatively intact, and harmonise it with the city’s small grain and character that makes Fremantle significant and precious, not only to the local community but to WA and Australia as a nation.

In the case of the historic town of Fremantle, the potential redevelopment of the Paddy Troy Mall block should provide a functional and visual link with the World Heritage Prison’s site and its buffer zone into clearly identifiable and coherent ‘whole’. Thus potentially healing this part of the city already damaged by the past demolitions and expedient constructions such as the warehouse currently used as the Food Hall next to Sail and Anchor. The City of Fremantle has already done all the preparatory work to assume both, the necessary level of control and guidance with confidence to know what to ask for from the potential developers.

Local Identity Code

Somewhere on the shelves of the city’s archives, gathering dust sits a precious Local Identity and Design Code for Central Fremantle. The LI&DC was prepared by the expert consultants to the City, Dr Jacek Dominiczak and Magda Zawadzka with contributions from the students of Curtin University. The main purpose of the study was to survey, study and define what constitutes Fremantle’s urban architecture and its unique character. The Code has been adopted by Council in 2009 as a community resource and a guide to compatible development for anyone interested, including developers. The Design Code was prepared as a planning tool, a practical and specific manual translating the relevant and, by nature, general policy provisions, into the architectural design language. The Spicer Site Design Code was prepared as a particular design framework for implementation of the 1992 Conservation Policy for the West End, 1987 Spicer Site Policy, 2008 Conservation Management Plan for the Synagogue Precinct, 2008 Conservation Management Plan for Fremantle Markets, and the 2008 Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct Masterplan.

It is about time that the City of Fremantle made good use of its own planning resources such as the Local Identity and Design Code. It should be used as a tool that enables both, clarification of the Council’s own rules and clear direction to individual entrepreneurs undertaking construction works in Central Fremantle. The Code reduces the current uncertainty in interpreting Council’s policies and clearly defines what is likely to be approved by Council. At the time of its adoption, the Code has been sceptically received by some local architects as too ‘restrictive” because it challenges the developers’, architects' and designers’ ‘freedom’ to fulfil their own professional ambitions as they see fit. Instead it is encouraging them to put their talents to good use within the defined framework. As the former Government Architect, Geoff Warn of Donaldson & Warn, once assured me while working together on the numerous and much loved Fremantle projects: talented architects are not afraid of rules and regulations as they appreciate the challenge of constraints and the opportunity to express their creativity in many unexpected ways. Geoff Warn has officially endorsed the Local Identity and Design Code and used it to come up with the unique plan for the much loved Old Port of Arthur Head Project. The project received the Royal Institute of Architects’ award in the urban design category, for the creative design of a unique, locally relevant and aesthetically appealing public space that amplifies its significance and extends its lasting values into the future. In addition, the project prompted the developer of the adjacent, formerly neglected Co-op building, to redevelop it into a very attractive and popular complex of shops and restaurants.

Model: Old Port Project

Thus in the case of the Old Port Project the three basic attributes of good planning and good architecture: the aesthetic, functionality and endurance, together with the heritage-informed and conservation inspired redevelopment have revived the area and added to the resilience, sustainability, and heritage-inspired, urban development of Fremantle, ensuring that it continues. This should serve as a model for all infill developments within the historic town Fremantle, including the Spicer site.

Carl Payne's response to the proposal:

The aerial photo shows the intersection of Henderson and William Streets and the 4-level Spicer building on William Street. The Spicer building had only a 25m frontage to William Street, in stark contrast to the effect of the long street frontages of the new and higher building. The Henderson Street frontage is some 45 metres in length and 5 stories high; the William Street frontage is some 40 metres long and 6 stories high. This will create a new canyon in William St. The original 4-storey Spicer building occupied only a small portion of the entire site, unlike the proposed new building which would cover most of the site.

In this photo, the original 2 storey corner building on Henderson St is gone. The precinct was uniformly low height, with rare taller buildings like Spicers. Streetscapes were low level in scale and impact. There is no large Henderson St carpark, nor any of the tall & bulky buildings now occupying the land on William St across the road from the location of the Spicer building.

These issues are crucial. The spaces created by buildings are the streets, footpaths and courtyards in which we live and recreate. New high, bulky buildings as proposed would lessen the quality of these highly-valued external spaces. Many examples of this deterioration in world cities show this is indisputable.

In the 1970s, Council decisions negatively changed the entire area. The Henderson Street terrace houses and associated buildings were demolished, as was the Spicers building. In the context of the times, Council can't be blamed, but with new informed values and perceptions, responses must also change. Surely, we now know better about how crucial it is to preserve and redevelop with great care and sensitivity. We need to repair, not exacerbate previous poor decisions.

These 2-storey terrace houses were located in Henderson Street. They were demolished for the Henderson Street carpark building. The original height and scale in this section of the precinct was destroyed. We need to ensure we don’t continue to make these regrettable mistakes.

The photos are sourced from the online City of Fremantle Library collection. I hope Councillors are aware of this valuable resource. It can inform and advise these crucial development decisions.

Finally, regarding a detailed aspect of the proposed new hotel planning:

The plans note the destruction of a pre-goldrush heritage limestone wall as: “To be carefully deconstructed and stored for reuse”. This is a beautifully phrased re-interpretation of the work of the bulldozer.

A heritage-sensitive architect, serious about conservation and repurposing with good intent, would retain this wall and integrate it into the design. It would be stabilised, repaired, repointed, then have a modest opening to create access where it runs across the proposed pedestrian lane. Then it could form one of the walls of the proposed ground floor Function Room shown. It would be retained and exposed heritage palimpsest. This would integrate, preserve, highlight, educate. The architecture is not coming from a perspective which fully appreciates what we have here in Fremantle. Note: Council approved the demolition of this wall in March of this year. Its destruction is imminent. Postponing this vandalism until the approval process has been completed must be done as a matter of urgency.

SIA Sasha Ivanovich Architects:
Spicer Site Fremantle DAP004/21

Jeremy Dawkins policy for the Spicer site remains as valid today as it was when issued, in October 1997.
I wholeheartedly support Jeremy’s advice to Council regarding this DA application,
- That the assessment process must start with the context and the whole city and include the protection of Fremantle CBD’s principal asset, it’s now rare and hard to replicate urban form and streetscape made of historic buildings defined by their scale and character.
- That Council has the power to apply its legal, planning, regulatory, policy and negotiating tools such as transferable development rights, offsets, incentives and swaps to achieve the right outcome on this site.
I also second Jeremy’s objections to the current DA proposal on the same grounds,
- That the façade of the proposed building does not in any way present a response to its context, more so its heritage context, in scale or character nor does it contribute in any way to place-making , that should permeate Fremantle CBD more so in this particular location adjoin Fremantle Markets.
- The proposal diminishes the heritage value of the Warders’ Cottages by its scale and character. It offers no references in façade modulation, use of material, scale of building or façade elements that gives (recognisable) reference or sense of correspondence to its historic context.
- That the building is over-scaled, in its elements, in its bulk and height. Simple strategies can be applied to improve this DA
• It is straight up façade. What form it takes at the ground continues to the top storey.
There is opportunity to create a horizontal break at the scale of the Warders’ Cottages 2 storey- (2.5 storey Cottages’ ridge level) that would create some correspondence and a visual connection between the historic built forms across the street.
• It is obvious that the hotel will not have balconies or guest rooms at ground floor and at the street level and most likely neither at the first floor, that they will be provided for other uses. These uses should be engaged to ‘activate’ the street, to create an inviting, public and community friendly outcome.
A simple method would be to make the two bottom floors more transparent.
• The heavy, stern, monotonous and gigantic structural elements, the heavy column and beam grid in this DA, should be avoided. This type of architectural treatment whilst it may make the building cheap to build, has no correspondence to the light lace and tactile elements, such as hand-made brick and hand-laid stone, of historic Fremantle.
• In the past, Council Planning had demanded that tall buildings be reduced in scale by setting the upper stories back from the street property lines provided, the desired effect is achieved – that the upper stories are NOT visible at street level nor at a distance where pedestrians are close enough to the site.
• To preserve the character of inner Fremantle CBD, 4-5 storey limits should be set whilst applying 2-3 storey setback requirement subject to the immediate city context.

Council and City Planning will be looking for advice from the City’s Design Advisory Committee.
I have been an elected member of the City’s Design Advisory Committee (then named Design Advisory Panel).

I found myself often the sole voice on that committee calling for a response to context. Hopefully Fremantle’s current Design Advisory Committee will find reason to demand in Fremantle’s CBD DA applications, a response to context, include in its design perspective place-making and act to preserve and protect the unique character of Fremantle and its priceless historical heritage.

Sasha Ivanovich FRAIA August 2022
218 Palmer Street Darlinghurst NSW 2010
8/136 Railway Street Swanbourne WA 6113 T

The Fremantle Herald drew attention to the proposal in a cover story on Saturday 23 July 2022, and then ran three related articles on pages 6 and 7. I've put the first one on my page for the author, Jeremy Dawkins, former Fremantle senior planner and chair of the WA Planning Commission.The second article, by Fremantle Society president John Dowson, follows:

Proposed building:

References and Links

Fremantle Herald

See also: Jeremy Dawkins, Carl Payne.

The two photos shown by Carl Payne, courtesy of the Fremantle Library Local History Collection, are ref. nos. 543 (cropped) and 3638.

One or more of the documents referred to by Agnieshka Kiera are or will be digitally available on or through this website. This is the first:
Local Identity and Design Code.

See also: Brockhoff, Detmold, Spicer

Garry Gillard | New: 24 July, 2022 | Now: 24 September, 2022