A review of the City of Fremantle’s Economic Development Strategy suggests there is increasing confidence in Fremantle as a place to invest despite the current stagnation in the WA economy.
A report to be considered by Fremantle Council next week said the most recent CommSec ‘State of the States’ report ranked WA’s economy as the second-weakest in the nation, while figures from the WA Treasury indicate lower discretionary spending on retail, food and beverage services.
The report also quotes Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA business confidence surveys in which 64 per cent of respondents said they expected economic conditions to stay the same or worsen over the next 12 months, with weak demand cited as the largest barrier to business growth.
Mayor Brad Pettitt said even though the picture was gloomy for the broader WA economy Fremantle was showing encouraging signs.
“In 2017-18 Fremantle reached a record high of $313 million worth of residential and commercial property approved for construction, defying the WA trend which has seen building approvals fall by 9.2 per cent over the past year,” Mayor Pettitt said.
“Of Fremantle’s current $1.3 billion development pipeline more than $600 million is either built or under construction, with recently completed residential apartment developments continuing to grow the inner city population.
“New residential development either recently built or under construction is continuing to contribute to a projected 68 per cent increase in the number of people living in Fremantle’s city centre by 2021.
“We’ve also seen new businesses continue to open in Fremantle, with a trend towards new food and beverage outlets rather than traditional retail.
“This means Fremantle now boasts an even stronger offering of unique, high-quality hospitality offerings as well as a selection of high-end boutique retail outlets.”
Despite the increased investment in Fremantle the Economic Development Strategy review also highlighted that the broader economic headwinds were challenging for local businesses.
Commercial vacancy rates in the city centre have been increasing in line with the wider metropolitan area, although vacancies in Fremantle were clustered around current redevelopment and construction zones.
The downgrading of Fremantle Hospital has also had an impact, with an estimated 1900 jobs lost from the city centre. The City of Fremantle has been working with the WA state government to create further jobs and investment in the Fremantle Hospital precinct.
The Kings Square Renewal Project, which will see 1500 state government workers relocate to Fremantle next year, is expected to increase pedestrian footfall and subsequent business trade throughout the CBD.
Fremantle Council is expecting to endorse the development of a two-year action plan to guide the City’s economic development activities as an interim measure ahead of the delivery of a new economic development strategy in 2021-22.