A prominent Perth property identity has queried state spending on projects fringing the CBD while its centre goes begging, creating a sprawling city without a heart.
Multiplex WA managing director Chris Palandri told an industry gathering last week the city was being “stretched and pulled in every direction” as the state government continually favoured decentralised projects that “elongated” an already enormous city.
His commentary follows WAtoday columnist Gareth Parker’s recent description of the city as full of disconnected, masterplanned precincts that left it “derelict and depressing” instead of enlivened.
The Property Council of Australia WA lunch on Friday focused on the $1.5 billion City Deal bonanza of federal funds to bring Edith Cowan University’s business and technology schools, plus its WA Academy of Performing Arts, into Perth city, representing 10,000 students.
This centrepiece of the deal, plus another 5000 students each from relocating certain schools from Curtin and Murdoch, is hoped to eventually deliver foot traffic, a so-called “night-time economy” and a population boost to the city centre, which is well behind the residential population density of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
In a discussion on whether this would be the transformative hit commentators have for years said Perth’s economy and atmosphere were sorely in need of, and diminish anti-social behaviour, homelessness and vacant storefronts currently dominating the city experience, Lord Mayor Basil Zempilas said it was the “start of our city boom”.
But Mr Palandri identified other another trend potentially stalling progress.
He said “alternative” land parcels being developed east of the city “cannibalised” population growth that might otherwise benefit core boroughs such as Elizabeth Quay.
Examples of redevelopments in East Perth include Claisebrook Village, the East Perth train station upgrade, East Perth Power Station, Optus Stadium, Belmont Park and Riverside, which includes the long-dormant Waterbank overlooking the Causeway in East Perth that has seen no construction start despite being in development for the past 10 years.
The government has played an instrumental hand in most of these, most controversially recently the East Perth Power Station.
“I don’t know why the state government is spending money at East Perth when we have all that land around Royal Perth Hospital,” Mr Palandri said.
“Perth is pretty much empty. Go to any suburban park mid-Sunday afternoon. The joint is empty. We can take another million people without really disturbing the place.”
Chris Palandri, Multiplex
“There are great heritage buildings there that could be repurposed and we could start creating an environment there that would be great for the city. The city and the state government are not connected.
“Where is the hero shot we have up on the wall that says, ‘this is the overall plan for Perth’?
“We need that document, something that developers and everyone can have a look at and go, ‘this is the plan, stick with the plan’ … make the city more liveable.
“They have the budget, they are just spending that budget in the wrong place.”
Mr Palandri said Perth was an extremely liveable city with a beautiful climate that had an opportunity to sell itself as a place to live and work, to ease skills shortages in many industries.
“Western Australia is suffering without enough people,” he said.
“Perth is pretty much empty. Go to any suburban park mid-Sunday afternoon. The joint is empty. We can take another million people without really disturbing the place,” he said.
“We need more people in WA, we want more people in the CBD. At the moment what we’re doing is to get them in the CBD we are cannibalising other areas.”
Mr Zempilas said the next fortnight would bring a gathering of stakeholders intending to progress such a plan for Perth’s centre.
He inadvertently revealed further government investment in East Perth, saying he was very confident a primary school would be announced within that area in the near future, though that was “not my announcement to make”.
Indigenous cultural centre must be ‘iconic’: Zempilas
Asked what Perth needed most as its next central city project, Mr Zempilas said the Indigenous cultural centre and museum.
He said it was hard to believe it had not yet been built.
“We have to do it better than just about any development has ever been done in this country,” he said.
“It should be, in my opinion, the second or third most iconic structure in this country, and if the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge are one and two, it needs to be true, it needs to be three.
“It needs to be that special, that significant image to represent the people that it needs to stand for.”
Mr Zempilas said the cultural centre and museum should also be able to be held up as a global tourism drawcard.
The Elizabeth Quay master plan provided for not just a cable car but for a nationally significant centre of indigenous culture, art and learning. This, however, did not form part of the first stage of the project and no funding was ever allocated for planning and construction.
The Property Council of WA-commissioned Big (and small) Ideas for Perth report named a “cultural anchor at Elizabeth Quay” as “essential” and said an Indigenous culture museum should be a priority for all levels of government.
Article Source: www.brisbanetimes.com.au