Speaking at a Fremantle Leaders Luncheon, Dr Pettitt acknowledged the City had allowed it to sink too far into the retail doldrums it now faces but said the decline was caused by a perfect storm of economic changes that caused it to suffer in the way it has.
Marking the City’s and his own performance over the past four years, Dr Pettitt acknowledged that the retail elements of the City’s strategic plan had been underperforming.
Increasing density and in particular grade A office space through amendment 38 in the East End, gazetted in 2010, and the more controversial amendment 49 in the City Centre, was part of acknowledging Fremantle’s fundamental problem – it needed more people.
‘It’s a really long process,’ he said of the time lag between the council’s approving amendments and the actual development.
‘When it comes to the Kings Square project, if we wanted to make sure it was built we needed to take the lead.’
‘At the very heart of the Fremantle economic recovery is very simple, its about having more people living and working in Fremantle,’ he said.
Talking about retail, Dr Pettitt said the City had faced a decline in sales by High Street retailers as shoppers moved to ‘big box’ retail, the global financial crisis and the surge in internet shopping, describing these three challenges as ‘the perfect storm’.
‘We’ve got more retail area than Garden City but their sales are much higher,’ he said.
‘This is where we need to have a very different strategy in Fremantle retail.
‘Fremantle is not about competing but having a very different product.’
He said increasing office space, attracting innovative and creative retailers and increasing the amount of housing, in particular affordable housing, in the City would combine to see it turn the corner.