The port city of Fremantle is located on the south west coast of Western Australia, ideally located at the mouth of the iconic Swan River and just 20 kilometres from the CBD of Western Australia’s capital city, Perth. Fremantle combines natural beauty, character and old-world charm with a modern and bustling economy, accessibility, and a range of services and facilities.
“Fremantle really does have it all, including a beautiful natural and built environment, excellent transport accessibility and a great range of modern services and facilities for locals and visitors,” Fremantle Mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt says. “Fremantle is also home to a diverse, artistic and socially conscious bohemian community which adds yet another unique element to the city’s character.”
With a population of approximately 25,000, Fremantle is renowned for its well-preserved architectural heritage, including convict-built colonial-era buildings, an old port precinct, Western Australia’s oldest structure in the ‘Roundhouse’ prison, and a host of other heritage listed structures including its well preserved heritage area known as the ‘West End’. Fremantle’s historic buildings and streetscapes were often built in limestone, have ornate façades and include some of the world’s best-preserved examples of Victorian and Edwardian architectural styles.
Fremantle also plays host to unique modern buildings including the Western Australian Maritime museum and Little Creatures Brewery. This distinct mix of old and new gives the city a vibrancy and character unlike any other city in Western Australia.
With a Mediterranean maritime climate, temperatures above 38 degrees in the summer are rare due to the influence of the Indian Ocean and the famous sea breeze – dubbed the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ – which works together in harmony to keep the city comfortable for residents and tourists. Winters are mild with temperatures varying from 7 degrees to 22 degrees.
Fremantle’s world famous heritage and welcoming climate make it a popular tourist attraction – a feature which plays an important role in the city’s economy, with Fremantle being one of the most visited destinations in Western Australia. “Tourism is important and it adds vibrancy, especially during the weekends,” Dr Pettitt says. “People come here for the historical ambience and the relaxed café culture. This atmosphere makes Fremantle very unique.”
Tourism, however, is not all the city has to offer. “Fremantle has a great range of retail, entertainment and other services and an artistic, creative community, all built around great natural surroundings,” Dr Pettitt adds. “There’s a social heritage, but there’s also a built heritage that makes us a great city.”
Fremantle also offers an acclaimed art gallery, a range of cafés, restaurants, pubs and shopping opportunities all in one location. “There are not many places where you can do all that, especially while on foot,” Dr Pettitt says. “In fact Fremantle has been rated one of the most walkable cities in the world.”
One of Fremantle’s popular attractions for residents and tourists is the Fremantle markets – open since 1897. Located in a renowned heritage-listed precinct, the markets offer handicrafts, specialty food outlets, dining halls and fish and vegetable markets. The area also hosts buskers and other street performers. “We’re such a strong community built around a café culture and the whole arts scene,” Pettitt says. “That’s what makes us special, we have that sense of a being a large village.”
Fremantle is also home to a working, large-scale container port that employs a significant workforce – another key part of their economy. The city also has a strong educational focus, and is also home to a campus for The University of Notre Dame Australia, which serves up to 5,000 students.
In terms of economic development, Fremantle is currently undergoing a major revitalisation which includes plans for significant new commercial, retail and residential development in the CBD to bring more people into the heart of the city. “It’s a good time to invest in Fremantle,” Dr Pettitt says. “People investing now will be at the forefront of a major new growth phase Fremantle – the biggest boom in Fremantle since Australia’s America’s Cup Defence which was hosted here in 1987.”
To attract business into Fremantle, the city has implemented innovative new planning and development regulations in areas away from the heritage districts. This is expected to result in a significant increase in retail, residential and commercial office development which will enable a broad-range of property developments, which will in turn bring “many thousands of office workers and new residents to Fremantle,” Pettitt says.
Apart from a slowdown in the retail sector, the global financial crisis in 2008 has had little negative impact on Fremantle, or Western Australia in general. According to Mayor Pettitt, the economy continues to grow in Fremantle. “When you have a thousand people moving to your city a week, then they’re going to need accommodation to seek jobs. When you have that growth in terms of jobs and accommodation, you’re on pretty safe ground,” he says.
Sustainability has been a strong focus for Fremantle. To address environmental concerns, they have started a sustainable working group – and that’s just the beginning. Revitalising Fremantle to be a low-carbon, energy efficient city for the 21st century is a priority. Fremantle doesn’t simply allow any kind of development – it focuses on and encourages high-quality, low-carbon sustainable development. “The development happening now is going to be the heritage of the future,” Dr Pettitt says.
They city has been working with developers to make sure all buildings meet high standards of sustainability. “In terms of energy efficiency and water usage, we’re also retrofitting our old buildings with solar, geothermal and even wind turbines,” he says. “This sums up what we’re trying to do in Fremantle – we take sustainability very seriously.”
With these new developments, Fremantle is careful to seek diversity – whether it’s in the sizes of apartments or the people dwelling within. Fremantle hopes to attract a broad demographic including families, students, musicians and artists, as well as key workers such as police, health industry staff and teachers. “Housing prices are quite high now, but we’re working hard to keeping Fremantle an affordable and diverse community and have planning regulations in place to ensure this is the case ” says the Mayor.
Compared to other cities, commercial office space is much cheaper in Fremantle – as much as 30 or 40 per cent less. The challenge is trying to attract businesses to use them. “The prices have become high in regional cities like Perth, so price is going to play a bigger role,” Dr Pettitt says.
In the next 10 to 15 years, Dr Pettitt expects to see substantial new investment in Fremantle that will solidify its status as “Perth’s second city.” One of the new developments is a new training facility for their beloved AFL football club, the Fremantle Dockers.
The city is poised to receive – and is ready for – massive growth. “Fremantle in the next decade will see a range of new developments that are of really high-quality, as well green in terms of water and energy efficiency,” Pettitt concludes. “Fremantle was a thriving 19th century city which during the latter stages of the 20th century had its fair share of challenges. It is now extremely well positioned to be a thriving and sustainable 21st century city which will attract thousands of people.”