The Council is currently updating the Economic Development Strategy, and we were privy to a briefing that was informative and somewhat surprising.
The graph below shows the decline in economic growth in WA since 2012, which appears to have hit rock bottom in 2017. Importantly, it also shows the decline in disposable income – the money people have to spend on shopping, eating out and recreation. Thankfully, it appears that the worst may now be behind us.
Staff undertake a detailed assessment of the business mix and vacancies in the CBD annually, which is shown below. What surprised some of us on Council was the business mix in the CBD – is this what you would have expected when thinking about the proportion of different types of businesses in the CBD?
The vacancy rate is also worth noting. While 13.4% vacancy rate is not great, it is interesting to compare it to other key local high street areas – shown below.
When considering this, remember that about 50% of Fremantle’s immediate geographical area is ocean, therefore limiting the local population and CBD catchment.
The residential population of central Fremantle in 1991 was 784 people. In 2016 it was 844 people, an increase of just 60 people in 25 years! We need more local people to support our local businesses.
This is the key rationale behind the Council’s efforts to increase the number of people living and working in Fremantle – and it’s working!
The table below shows building approvals over the last 20 years, demonstrating that four of the top five performing years have been within the last five years – despite the sluggish state economy!
The projected result is that the population in central Fremantle will double within the two years, largely due to the planning changes adopted in 2008. This also demonstrates the lag-time between Council planning and private sector project delivery. Hard work pays off, but it does take time!
The “$1.3 billion development pipeline” has been widely celebrated by the Council. Since it was first announced in 2015, $600m has been completed or is under construction.
A map showing key developments around the city centre is shown below. It includes development that has occurred (in purple), and underway (in red), the areas in yellow and orange are in the very early planning phases, like the Fremantle Oval, Fremantle Hospital and Victoria Quay. Green shows development sites with approved plans that are yet to commence construction.
This growth in local population will support the local economy and grow our local community. More people also means more vibrancy, more eyes on the street and more people shopping locally. The challenge we face is to maintain the local character, and being inclusive of a diverse community, as this progresses.
The future for Fremantle is bright. The economic downturn seems to have turned a corner and we are poised to see the renewal of Fremantle become a reality.
Over coming weeks and months, the Council will develop a new economic development strategy to help guide us through the next phase. I do this with the One Planet principles in mind – as we work to create a sustainable local economy that serves the community without costing the planet. I look forward to doing this work and will continue to share the progress as we go.