During our walk my wife commented about how the look of the city had markedly improved since the early days of our courtship ten years ago, when a night out in Perth City meant dodging vomit slicks on the pavement and making sure your hepatitis innoculations were up to date. It didn't happen overnight, but the city has gradually been transformed into a place of clean pavements, sufficient lighting and populated streets that I'd be happy to visit. It seems to me that the City of Perth are ahead of the game when it comes to understanding that investing in quality infrastructure gives a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting people.
The City of Perth isn't alone. Recently work began on improving the look of one of Perth's premier main streets - Bay View Terrace. This Perth icon is being transformed to the tune of almost 4 million big ones with the desired outcome being that the street attracts more people. The good work of the City of Perth over the past decade and the news that Bay View Terrace is being upgraded got me considering the state of central Freo's infrastructure, which isn't exactly our city's finest point. I'll begin with two of my sore points: the Town Hall and the Cappuccino Strip.
The Town Hall
Freo is fortunate enough to possess some fantastic heritage buildings. The east end of town doesn't have as many survivors as its western counterpart, but it does still boast the amazing Town Hall. This awesome building is a hotspot for tourists and one of Freo's most iconic landmarks. Even better, the Town Hall is under the care and attention of the City of Fremantle, so there's no need for us proud residents to worry about some skinflint landlord letting this beautiful building run down...or is there?
|Some photos of our rundown Town Hall|
|Not a good look for Freo|
Sparked by some emails by John Dowson, I paid a visit to the Town Hall on Saturday and boy is it shameful. The grand entrance is completely dilapidated, covered in peeling, mouldering paint, with chunks of the columns rotting with rust. The exterior doesn't just look old, it looks absolutely filthy. What kind of message does this send to the tourists that come to photograph our gracious Town Hall? No wonder all the ones I saw taking photographs were using their wide angled lenses.
So what can be done?
I'd like to think that the City has a long-term maintenance programme for the Town Hall. It isn't rocket science, is it? Let's see this programme funded over the next three years, so that by 2015 my three hundredth post can be dedicated to the sparkling upgraded Town Hall.
The Cappucino Strip
Compared to central Perth, I'm afraid to say that Freo's favourite place for having a coffee has taken on a decidedly uncared-for appearance. Don't get me wrong, I don't want the Cappucino Strip to be something straight out of Clone Town Magazine or Stainless Steel Monthly. What I would like to see is clean bins (that aren't filled to oveflowing every weekend) and without pavement stained by god knows what underneath. The road surface and footpath look like they were laid around the time that the America's Cup was kicking off. Walking along these footpaths people can take delight in checking out old chewing gum, vomit and food stains, as well as plenty of miscellaneous discolourations that I'm grateful not to be able to identify. Old bollards that need a fresh lick of paint or replacing aren't a good look for our premier street.
What can be done?
I'd like to see Council dedicate some much needed tender love and care to the strip over the next three years. Budgeting for the street should take into account the introduction of shared space, some decent street trees (following the successful streetscape enhancement trial) and a couple of kick ass entry statements.
It's also the little things that count
For me, the Cappuccino Strip and the Town Hall characterise the general dilapidated state of central Freo's infrastructure. When my wife and I walk around the city centre there are far too many little examples of rundown infrastructure. Unfortunately the only logical conclusion that a reasonable person can come up with is that the Freo just don't care.
I think that I'd be able to stomach the big ticket items a little more if the City could show they did the little things properly. Bins cleaned regularly and rubbish picked up so that they don't overflow. Dodgy looking bins replaced. Bollards painted or replaced when they've been dislodged. Cracked pieces of pavements replaced. Why are some trees in the High Street mall still enclosed by tacky looking fencing? Cleaning the gum from Freo's Walk of Fame.
What can be done?
Simple, the City can start showing that it cares by investing in doing the little things well.
For me, the state of Freo's infrastructure is sorely lacking. Freo is in the business of competing to attract people, residents, talent, businesses. In this competition, quality matters. There is no way of getting around this simple fact.
I'm happy to see that the new Business Improvement District for Freo has been approved. I noticed that it has a sizeable marketing budget. Walking around the central city with its shabby looking infrastructure, I wonder if this money can't be better spent on improving the quality of central Freo's infrastructure, otherwise what is there to be marketed? The Freo Festival of Litter?