As far as investors go, Sirona Capital seems to have a hand in many pieces of the Fremantle pie, entering a partnership with the City for the development of Kings Square, backing a hotel on Packenham Street and post-GFC investment in the redevelopment of Fort Knox into apartments with partner Match.
Sirona clearly sees opportunity where small business and retailers only see tough times.
What Mr McNeilly does see is change.
‘The maritime industry is still here but Fremantle will still need these new industries to grow and to develop new jobs,’ he said.
‘Fremantle needs to see more people working and living and playing here.’
Mr McNeilly describes Fremantle has having a ring of tourist attractions around on the outskirts of the city, but not much to attract people in the centre.
More office space, hotel rooms, and a boom in apartment living, as well as tourism and a thriving arts scene will give people reasons to stay in Fremantle, rather than just visit. That will flow through to the ailing retail sector.
‘I come here with no legacy issues; I’m not a retailer that’s sitting on High Street with crap being kicked on me for years,’ he said.
‘But that’s a retail story as well as a Fremantle story. People are looking for an experience before they shop.
‘It’s far more challenging for a shopping centre to develop the facilities to attract people to recreate, by dining and socialising, and then shop.
‘Fremantle has all of that in place. Fremantle is really at the start of a retail renaissance.’