The contrary nature of Fremantle is something I have grown to enjoy and celebrate, however occasionally there are also times I despair at the lack of commonsense or common decency. The Cantonment Street Woolstores are a case in point. When I was elected to Freo Council in 2005 the plan to develop Elders Woolstores into apartments was the first major planning application before us new Councillors. When we approved it I became enthusiastic about the vibrancy such a development, in unison with the proposed Hotel for the Goldsborough Street section would bring to that part of town. How naive I was, six years later and the place is a disgrace.
Fremantle Ports and our business section are promoting Fremantle as a cruise destination and the back to back visit of the Queens Mary 2 and Elizabeth 2 are testament to their work. As a cruise destination Fremantle should be one of the best. What other port can you walk off the ship into a tourist hub, a vibrant heritage city with so much to offer the cruiser in their short stay? BUT picture yourself on the gangplank looking at those crumbling, derelict Woolstores and that taxi to Perth could look like the best way to spend your day and your money.
Just up the road Match looked at Dalgety Woolstores (Fort Knox) and decided it would be a great place for apartments. They worked with the community and their application was approved. Now they are well on the way to realising their dream and Fremantle will be much the better for it.
So why is such a key site as Elders Woolstores, so close to the Train Station and CBD, being left to rot, with a subsequent loss in significant earnings for the owner? Only the owner can really answer that question, but for me it looks very much like they deliberately wished to punish Fremantle for some perceived or imagined slight. It is a money wealthy and morally poor person who engages in that sort of behaviour.
It’s time for the people of Fremantle to send a strong message to Ms New to call a halt to the pettiness and to get on with capitalising on the buildings style, character and location, or pass it on to someone who can.