Floreat provides forum for infill action

Source: Business News

Talks to develop a residential precinct around Perth’s first American-style shopping centre have been ongoing for almost a decade.

Delivering thousands of new dwellings in Perth’s western suburbs as a contribution to increased residential infill has been no easy feat.

The four-hectare site containing Floreat Forum shopping centre on Howtree Place has been earmarked for increased infill for about eight years.

Floreat Forum, which is included in the local heritage survey, opened in September 1965 as Perth’s first American-style shopping centre; it was bought by property syndicate Australasian Property Investments Limited (APIL) for $100 million in 2009.

APIL has recently lodged a precinct structure plan (PSP) for the Floreat Forum site with the Town of Cambridge, which aims to deliver on the town’s local planning strategy as approved by the Western Australian Planning Commission in 2021.

(APIL has exclusively released a render of the envisioned precinct under its PSP to Business News.)

The town’s local planning strategy (LPS) focuses on infill in three activity centres: the West Leederville, Wembley Hotel, and Floreat Forum precincts.

In Floreat, the town aims to add 900 to 1,250 dwellings.

The site covered under the PSP is an area bound by The Boulevard to the north, Hornsey Road to the east, Oceanic Drive to the south and Howtree Place to the west.

Under APIL’s PSP, the dwelling numbers could be achieved through the construction of seven towers on the site, with the landmark building to be between 18 and 20 storeys.

APIL also planned for the other towers on the site to be smaller than the landmark building, with the shortest of the seven towers to be limited to 10 storeys.

APIL has submitted a precinct structure plan to meet the density targets under Town of Cambridge’s strategy. Image: APIL

A way to achieve the dwelling targets under APIL’s PSP would be to divide the dwellings, with 950 on the Floreat Forum side and 350 in the ‘residential frame’ portion.

APIL managing director Peter Hughes said the town approached APIL in September 2016 to plan for the delivery of a significant portion of Floreat Forum and the neighbouring residential frame’s residential infill quota.

However, it wasn’t until the town’s LPS was approved in 2021 that there was a specific residential quota.

“The town’s approved local planning strategy has now set a vision for the Floreat Forum site in which APIL has a big role to play as owners of Perth’s first shopping mall centre,” Mr Hughes said.

“This proposal is an important next step in the planning process as it sets out how we see the state government’s population growth targets being met across the whole site.

“Over the last six years, we have spent considerable resources on every element of the proposal – from consulting with neighbouring residents within the activity centre zone, our tenants, traffic management considerations, addressing overshadowing, and environmental considerations – all to ensure the best possible outcome is secured for the town and the local community.

“We have presented the PSP to three design review panels coordinated by the Town of Cambridge, [we have] undertaken landowner workshops with the neighbouring residents and facilitated a community survey with over 500 respondents.”

APIL had to return to the drawing board after meetings with the design review panel, which resulted in adding an additional tower to the precinct but at a reduction to the proposed height.

Its PSP also includes: the reintroduction of Chandler Avenue traversing a west-to-east one-way route through the property; an open space for community engagement; and deep soil areas to provide larger permanent trees to enhance these spaces.

According to APIL, the upgrading of the existing shopping centre mall and tenancies was in line with the town’s vision.

APIL has engaged MJA Studio, Hatch Roberts Day, TRCB architects, ASPECT Studios, KCTT, and Pritchard Francis as consultants for the PSP.

However, the time and resources spent on the PSP did not guarantee the plan would be implemented.

The PSP will need WAPC approval, and development applications still need to be submitted for any towers or shopping centre refurbishment to occur.

Peter Hughes says the PSP is an important next step in the process. Photo: Michael O’Brien

Amid reports of public concern over the future of the Floreat activity centre, the town has arranged public workshops following APIL’s PSP submission this month.

Mr Hughes acknowledged that the feedback given over the years had shaped and directed the precinct structure plan.

“We know our tenants and their customers are looking forward to the future evolution of Floreat Forum, given the large role it’s played in the community over the years,” Mr Hughes said.

“The future of Floreat will provide a response to the strong demand for increased residential density while providing an opportunity for those looking to downsize to remain in the area they know and love.”

The council is expected to decide whether to release the precinct plan for a 42-day public feedback period in mid-2024.

Western focus

A plan to increase density in the western suburbs was knocked back by then-planning minister Donna Faragher in 2016.

Over the years, the focus on density has increased, particularly with the change in government.

Perth developer Blackburne has also targeted a western suburbs shopping centre, although significantly smaller in size than Floreat Forum.

Blackburne acquired the company that owned the Ocean Village Shopping Centre complex on Kilpa Court last year.

In July, the Town of Cambridge approved selling the adjoining shopping centre car park to Blackburne for $8.9 million.

Blackburne developments director Matthew Chau said the City Beach shopping centre was in a highly desirable part of the western suburbs because of the lack of new and high-quality housing options in the area.

“It’s also the site of a much-loved neighbourhood centre, which, unfortunately, has gone past its useful life and in desperate need of renewal,” Mr Chau told Business News.

“Although we are still testing options, we’d like to see a renewed neighbourhood centre with a supermarket, high-quality restaurants and cafes opening up on to the park, plus some much-needed new residences in the area.”

According to Mr Chau, the town has also identified the site for infill development.

“The cost to refurbish the centre is very high, so the best solution is for a full renewal that includes a brand-new shopping centre which opens up to the park, rather than the ‘inward facing’ experience that the current building provides,” he said.

“Creating new homes on sites like this one, where none currently exist, is the best way to assist in meeting the increasing demand we see from people in the local area looking for more appropriate housing options.

“It allows the surrounding areas to remain the way they are and avoid increased density spread throughout Floreat and City Beach.”

Mr Chau said a scheme would be compiled for the project, with community consultation to start later in the year.

Woolworths’ property arm Fabcot has also progressed on its Nedlands Square project, with a spokesperson confirming that on-site demolition of existing houses started in November.

“We expect construction on the new precinct to begin this year and will continue providing updates to the community in due course,” the spokesperson said.

The $25 million Nedlands Square project is a revamp of the Captain Stirling Hotel precinct at the intersection of Stirling Highway, Florence Road and Stanley Street.

However, the Nedlands development does not include any residential component and will instead centre on a Woolworths supermarket and BWS, with specialty tenancies including fitness, medical, and dining.

Despite the pub calling for last drinks in late 2023, it is understood the Captain Stirling Hotel will be refurbished to be reopened through a new lease.