Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Getting to know Scheme Amendment 49: 'The What'

It's time to test 'the what' in my series of posts on Scheme Amendment 49.
Does Scheme Amendment 49 by itself ensure development that will be built up to a standard instead of down to a price?
No.
When it comes to the detail that is needed to facilitate quality design, Scheme Amendment 49 can be described as being a sheep in sheep's clothing - if it looks like it is too superficial to achieve quality design, then that’s probably because it is too superficial to achieve quality design.
Will Scheme Amendment 49 achieve the right mix of retail, office and residential uses?
Questionable.
I couldn’t find any requirements in Scheme Amendment 49 for a minimum number of apartments in any new development. It seems that relying on the fluctuations of the market to determine whether a residential component is included in new developments is unnecessarily high risk, especially if the goal is to have a vibrant precinct. If it turns out that the current economic phase means that retail/office development will be more profitable without the inclusion of a residential component, then this is what developers will opt for.
Where Scheme Amendment 49 allows discretion, is there enough documentation to ensure that the right decisions are made and upheld?
I’m sceptical. No design guidelines, no place making plan and no developer contributions plan.
When development proposals are eventually submitted, those proposals in excess of $7 million will be determined by Development Assessment Panel, not Council. These panels are state government run and are made up of five members, three professional members and two local government members from Council.
Here again, Scheme Amendment 49 is like a sheep in sheep's clothing, this time, if it looks a little light on for supporting documents that help ensure that the right decisions are made and upheld, then that's probably because it is a little light on for supporting documents that help ensure that the right decisions are made and upheld.
Can anyone say "baaa"?
Are the proposed height allowances in Scheme Amendment 49 too high?
Yes.
For those sites that are eligible for the additional discretionary height, I'm comfortable with six storeys plus an additional storey setback which cannot be seen from the street.
In conclusion:
I recommend finding out more about Scheme Amendment 49 by going to the City's website at:
Remember that the period for providing comments closes on 7 December.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Eating out in Freo: Courtyards II

I'm searching out Freo's alfresco dining and this week I'm checking out courtyards. Next up and another of Freo's courtyard studs is Moore & Moore Cafe in the heart of the West End on Henry Street.
Moore & Moore Cafe
Over our years in Freo, my wife and I have developed a much-treasured routine, which we repeat at least once each weekend: sometime after 10am I will put on my full face crash helmet and endure the minor scuffle it takes to rouse her from her sleep-in, and then dress my wounds before we stroll down to Moore & Moore, our favourite Freo cafe.
I doubt there's much I can tell any Freo local about Moore & Moore that they haven't already experienced for themselves.  Run by Simon (who is incidentally a top bloke), it's a slice of the best of Melbourne with the addition of a distinctly Freo vibe.  The building alone is pretty special, and the interior manages to be quirky without trying too hard, as well as comfortable.
The menu is perfect for breakfast or a light lunch, while a slice of the rhubarb raspberry tart for afternoon tea is hard to beat.  The coffee is some of the best in Freo, although my wife and I will more often opt for a pot of the chai (which is made with fresh grated ginger and cardamon pods and is really delicious) or, in summer, one of the iced teas.
The courtyard at the rear is a great place to lose an hour or two with a Moore's Rooibos iced tea and a good friend in fine weather.  Being enclosed on all sides gives it a secret garden-esque feel, particularly towards the back where the greenery cools things down.
Regular readers of this blog (hi Mum) might remember that Moore & Moore represents the single time I've been able to earn some cred for my taste in, well, anything, from my cool, ex-Melbourne, current-Mt Lawley friend.  It was the courtyard that won him over, and it's now my top spot for showing off the best of Freo to anyone new.
The Moores Building, 46 Henry Street. Open daily for breakfast and lunch.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Eating out in Freo: Courtyards I

Food is one of my favourite things. The odds were against me ever becoming a gastronome - my mum, God love her, raised me on the kind of recipes that always began 'open a packet of supermarket mince'. Her culinary career peaked with a dish of chilli con carne when I was about thirteen, but the unfamiliar praise from my brother and I that this generated went to her head and she served it for a week straight, at which point the traditional 'browned with onions' option was as welcome as anything Jamie Oliver could have served us.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, experiencing good, interesting food has become an integral part of how I like to enjoy myself. If I can get it in a place that's also appealing, then I'm a happy man.

With the warmer weather upon us, I'm going to search out Freo's alfresco dining to suit all tastes and budgets. Courtyards are the first stop on my alfresco dining tour. They are quintessential alfresco dining, often providing an enjoyable setting for meals and/or drinks in the outdoors.For the first in the courtyard series, let’s visit Gypsy Tapas House.

Gypsy Tapas House

The entrance to Gypsy Tapas House is distinctly unprepossessing. It is tucked into a low, eighties style building of sandy brick, surrounded by a random conglomerate of shop fronts that suggest the owners have realistically assessed the value of spending much time designing a window display and decided they're better off having a sleep-in.

However, the less-than-salubrious frontage just adds to Gypsy's charm - slipping through the brick pillars and catching your first view of the charming courtyard makes you feel like you've discovered a hidden treasure. Tubs of lemon trees and tangly herbs freshen the air; cleverly mismatched seating, colourful decorations, carafes of cool sangria, wait staff of the tie-dyed cotton and dreddies variety and live music create an unhurried atmosphere.

It's only on the surface that Gypsy is relaxed, though - make no mistake, these guys run a mean business and a very professional kitchen. The dishes are inventive and are full of fresh, seasonal produce and ground-up, unusual spices - mace, sumac and fenugreek, and come with huge amounts of turkish bread. You can select your own mix of tapas plates, which all go for $8 each, or opt to pay $40 a head and work your way through the menu, the idea being that you keep going till you're full.  This second option is good if you're new to Gypsy, but be warned that you'll probably fill up on dips, nuts and turkish bread before a whole lot of the really exciting stuff comes out. Plus, with two covers per evening - 6.30pm and 8.30pm - you need to eat fast.

Being the type of wine connoisseur that makes selections based on what my wife says I will like (strangely always the cheapest bottle), I can't comment on their wine list, but I can say with confidence that a carafe of Gypsy's orangey sangria on a warm summer's evening takes some beating.

The service is fast, efficient, and for the most part friendly - although I did have an off-putting experience once when a pregnant friend was told she couldn't order separately but had to pay for the all-you-can-eat option along with the rest of our group, despite not being able to eat the vast majority of dishes that were brought out. It made me realise that the Gypsy's welcoming, hippyish vibe concealed a far less pleasant approach to money matters and soured me against the place for a while, but glimpsing those lemon trees in the courtyard on a summer afternoon put me in a forgiving mood and we've once again become semi-regulars.

Gypsy's is a great place for catching up with friends in the afternoon or celebrating in the evening (when the music gets noisier). There's something about the place that is distinctly 'Freo', which also makes it great venue for showing off how great a place this can be to newcomers.

Cnr of Queen Street and High Street.
Open Thurs/Fri/Sat for lunch and dinner and Wed for dinner only. (Cash only, ATM available on premises)
9336 7135

Chalk it up: The Cappuccino Strip Street Club returns

After last summer's successful season of four events, the Cappuccino Strip Street Club returns this Thursday, 1st December where it all began behind Gino's on Market Street.

This season's debut event will run from 5pm to 8pm and will feature:

  • A frock swap happening
  • Bike decorating
  • Hoola hoop making
  • Banner painting

Fooz ball and ping pong tables are being sought for the event as well. I say, chalk it up!

Help wanted: coordinator(s) required
The Cappuccino Strip Street Club is looking for people to help out with coordinating future events to replace recently elected Councillor and founding Cappuccino Strip Street Club coordinator Rachel Pemberton, who has stood down from her role.
Facebook

To keep informed 'like' the club's Facebook site at:

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Wine tasting and chewing the fat at FICRA Christmas Party

On Friday night a great crowd turned up at the wine cellar of the historic Samsons Building on Cliff Street for the FICRA Christmas Party.

The cellars provided a great setting for chewing the fat whilst checking out some Plantagenent wines and chowing down on some great plates of food that were brought along by the residents. My shirt provided the Christmas decorations for the evening.

One of the highlights was getting to check out the cool museum upstairs which included some kick ass photographs of old Fremantle.

FICRA's blog is at  http://ficra.freospace.com.au/

Friday, 25 November 2011

Recommended reading: 'Beer Coasters and Soggy Design Guidelines'

For anyone interested in Scheme Amendment 49, I recommend having a read of Emma Powell's article 'Beer Coasters and Soggy Design Guidelines'.

Her article thinks through some of the implications for not having a set of design guidelines in place to accompany Scheme Amendment 49 and discusses putting all of our eggs in the Design Advisory Committee basket.

The article is in today's Herald and is also on the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association blog site at: http://ficra.freospace.com.au/?p=666

After spending some time getting to know Scheme Amendment 49 over the past couple of days, I'll be leaving a comment supporting her perspective.

Getting to know Scheme Amendment 49: 'The How'

Recently there has been a lot said by various people about proposed Scheme Amendment 49, and I thought I'd take the time to get to know it better. So I've decided to show the amendment a bit of love and I'm inviting everyone along for the ride.

The other day, Scheme Amendment 49 and I enjoyed our first date, and the good news is that my mo wasn't too scary and I've managed to score a second date!

How?

Scheme Amendment 49.

It's clear that there are many sites in Freo desperate for good redevelopment, so let's evaluate Scheme Amendment 49 from the perspective of a developer.

Do I get certainty about what is required and that a decision in my favour will be made?

Yes and no. Scheme Amendment 49 does include some hard and fast rules about some aspects of any proposals. But, Council is hedging its bets about its design outcomes by including an open-ended design criteria that possibly raises more questions than it answers. Unfortunately uncertainty is exacerbated by the absence of a set of design guidelines. The developer is left asking the legitimate question: How do I show that my proposal fits the design criteria and will they agree with me?

Is my exposure to risk lowered?

I'm thinking more yes than no. In its favour, Scheme Amendment 49 provides more options than were previously available to developers. Increasing the height that is allowable and removing minimum parking requirements for office uses for new buildings create more options than were previously available. Risk is lowered as developers can reduce their costs by not having a large parking requirement to fulfil and by including a mix of uses - retail, office and residential. If the market drops out of the commercial sector at least there is the back up of having a residential component as part of the development and vice versa.

As we'd all appreciate where there is uncertainty there is risk. As discussed earlier, when Council hedges its bets about design outcomes it wants through including open-ended design criteria with no accompanying design guidelines, uncertainty is created. From the developers perspective, the absence of design guidelines means that plans are open to interpretation without a logical basis for determining their conformity. This leads to additional risk by possibly increasing costs associated with modifying or preparing new plans, a lengthy application process, and a possible appeal process.

Will I make enough profit so that I can fund my next development?

Let's not kid ourselves, developers are here to make a profit. Scheme Amendment 49 helps to a large extent by providing more options and potentially reducing one aspect of the cost of construction (parking). There is the potential for a smooth approval process (which helps with keeping costs down) but this would be helped by increasing certainty through a set of design guidelines.

So from the mindset of a developer, it seems that Scheme Amendment 49 is a step in the right direction for attracting development. Although will it be good development?

What about getting kick ass buildings?

It looks like Scheme Amendment 49 ticks most boxes when it comes to creating the conditions for redevelopment by proving certainty, lowering risk and increasing potential profits. We need to replace the old, soulless buildings so this is a good thing.

But we don't want rubbish. Putting the developers hat on was useful as it confirmed for me that this amendment represents only one part of the equation for achieving good development that leads to people-friendly places in the eastern part of Freo's city centre. So now that Scheme Amendment 49 has planted the seed for redevelopment, what else is being proposed to ensure that we get kick ass development?

This is where, for me, Council's initiative is flawed. In considering the perspective of a developer as well as understanding our - the community's - need for great places and buildings, there is something missing. Design guidelines are missing. It is disappointing that they have not been prepared to accompany this amendment as the certainty and guidance that they would bring to achieving good development seems to present a win-win scenario for everyone. (Come to think of it, it'd be nice to have a place making plan that focuses on improving the public spaces in this precinct as well.)

So in summary, as part of Council's initiative to revitalise the eastern portion of Freo's city centre, Scheme Amendment 49 does seem to create the conditions for attracting redevelopment. However, without supporting documents such as a set of design guidelines and even a place making plan, Council's initiative can be described as "all tip and no iceberg."

If I'm lucky enough to get a third date, we'll be discussing some of the specific features of Scheme Amendment 49.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Getting to know Scheme Amendment 49: 'The Why'

This post is a little like a first date. There has been so much said about proposed Scheme Amendment 49 since it was initiated by Council, that I've decided to block out all the static and show the amendment a little bit of love in an effort to get to know it better.

Firstly, let's get the formalities out of the way:

  • Advertising finishes on 7 December 2011.
  • The best way to find the scheme amendment documentation is to get Google to do the work for you by typing in "scheme amendment 49 city of fremantle" and it'll save you the time and frustration of searching the City's website.
Why?

For me the answer is simple. Because Freo needs it...more specifically the eastern end of our city centre is crying out for it.

Go to the intersection of Market Street and Cantonment Street and start walking towards Clancy's Fish Pub. Walk about 50 metres and you'll come to my building: the old 'Woodsons Building'. It needs a good lick of paint but other than that it is a good example of what is possible if we revitalise Freo the right way. A mixed use building with thirty six differently sized apartments.

Across the road is a beautiful...car park. Opportunity lost.

Skip the ultra bland office building at the intersection of Cantonment and Queen (another opportunity lost - how was that building approved without a residential component?) and depending on the time of day we begin the 'East End shuffle' (for those of you who aren't familiar with this shuffle, it is associated with the head-down-avoiding-the-attention-of-the-drunks gait).

I've noticed that there is an exponential relationship between the need to start the 'East End shuffle' and the buildings in this part of Freo. Buildings such as the Target building, the Westgate Mall (waiting to catch a bus outside the old Spotlight store must feel a little like being in the middle of a boxing match), and last but certainly not least that ode to East German 1970s Stasi style architecture, the Point Street car park.  These buildings are just plain ugly and, to their lasting detriment, they have failed to become places. 

In my three and a half years living in the centre of Freo I don't recall ever needing to do a 'West End shuffle'. For me 'the why' for this amendment has to be about getting rid of the need for an 'East End shuffle' and creating some great, vibrant and people-friendly places in the eastern end of our city centre.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

How about vending machines for bike parts in Freo?

The other day, whilst trawling through my list of urban planning related websites, I found an interesting article about a vending machine that holds bike parts like lights, patch kits and tubes for cycling commuters on 'The City Fix' website.

The 'Bike Fixtation', located in Minneapolis, is a customised self-service bicycle repair station and rest stop. 

Here is the link to the article:


Here is the link to the 'Bike Fixtation' website:


The concept offers a great opportunity for Freo to continue becoming a more bicycle friendly city.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Movember

If you've seen me out and about sporting a bit of bum fluff on my upper lip and are a bit worried about my state of mind, you can rest easy...this year I'm participating in Movember.

I'm glad to report that being a town planning geek, a scheme amendment for my upper lip that facilitates new growth was recently approved by my very own Minister for Planning (my wife).

Everyone will be glad to know that the early stages of the scheme amendment involved consulting with my wife early in the project. After a number of workshops and the preparation of detailed design guidelines supported by an economic feasibility study we agreed on a 'win-win' and now it's full steam ahead!

Anyone interested in donating can do it online at: http://mobro.co/MichaelSwanepoel.

For anyone wanting a good laugh, I'll be posting some photos to chart the progress of my mo.