“Aren’t they beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to live in such a space?” exclaimed Booth, pointing to the one beautiful building, the ground floor of which was occupied by businesses, but the upper floors of which were empty (in some sad cases, the entire building was empty).
Included in this roll call of listed properties that are dormant is the Savoy Hotel which, according to those who have been up there, is a stunning space crying out to be taken over by individuals or organizations (similar to Melbourne’s legendary Nicholas Building).
Booth then led me to London Court, the iconic open-topped Tudor-style shopping street built in 1937 by prominent WA businessman and wealthy gold financier Claude De Bernale and purchased in 2021 by Singaporean property developer Fragrance Group.
“Perth evolved into a modernist city where the areas where we work are separate from where we live and where we shop. This has been preserved in European cities, which is why we find them so attractive. It’s the mix of activities that creates a great community,” says Booth.
“When London Court was built it had 55 commercial leases, 53 offices and 25 residences. It had all the ingredients for a good community. Since then, the residences have been transformed into business premises due to changes in affordability. But with some help, the residential aspect could be restored and filled with residents,” Booth argues.
“Imagine if the top floors of London Court were filled with, say, young city workers or WAAPA students, with a bustling nightclub on the ground floor. It could transform the place and show us a glimpse of the vitality we all keep talking about.”
Converting these first floors back to living quarters won’t be easy, Booth admits. The cost of refurbishment and refurbishment and the rents that can reasonably be charged make them unattractive to landlords, which is why so many of the top floors of landmark buildings in the Hay Street Mall and in the CBD are empty.
“But there must be ways to show owners the value of upgrading their beautiful properties and filling them with tenants. Perhaps incentives such as matched financing or rate cuts could be explored at all levels of government. These kinds of investments have the potential to make the CBD sing again,” she says.
“Great communities attract people and in a more sustainable way because they become safer and more vibrant 24 hours a day. They end up attracting healthier types of investments, which is a path to true revitalization. In this way, all festivals and fireworks become the icing on the cake instead of the only revitalization mechanism we have at our disposal.”
“The property owners say the city is working hard. Not enough people come in; we cannot rent our space. But they have not tried to lower their rents. They have to look inside first. They play an important role in the rebirth of our city.
Mayor Basil Zempilas
Real estate developer Adrian Fini, whose company has a long and acclaimed history of reviving heritage (the treasury buildings are among his celebrated projects), says it would be unthinkable in Europe for so many properties to stand empty in the center of a city.
“They have a set of laws to fix rents and prevent tenants from being evicted. They did this because they had a housing crisis. We now have a housing crisis, which is new to us. We had a housing crisis before, but not this big. And it will take some time,’ Fini tells me during an extensive discussion in his Subiaco office.
The key to activating empty and underused buildings in the city is for all levels of government to agree on a policy to achieve revitalization by filling the city with people, Fini argues. A firm commitment enables stakeholders to plan and invest in the knowledge that there is a shared vision, with all stakeholders moving in one direction.
The developer also believes that some simple mechanisms could be used to encourage owners of vacant buildings to convert their commercial properties into living space.
“If they restore a property in a valid way, they may get a fee waiver,” he says. “And if you could involve not just the state government and the city of Perth, but also the federal government, you would have a whole range of resources, such as GST and land tax reductions, to persuade owners to improve their properties and make them available for tenants. .”
But the biggest draw for the owners of the empty buildings that are blighting the CBD is improving the city, and thus improving their investment.
“Revitalizing a city makes commercial sense. A building in the middle of an area where no one wants to go near will be worth much less than a building full of people in a neighborhood that is bustling with activity. If you can get 20,000 or 30,000 extra people into the city, everyone will be better off. Cities need people.”
If the ABC forum is any guide, our high-profile mayor, who took office with a promise to breathe life back into the dopey heart of our metropolis, is prepared to use both a carrot and a stick to destroy those infamous boarded-up buildings. filling and first floors.
Converting vacant or underutilized business space into affordable housing is challenging due to technical issues, Zempilas admits. And because of financial barriers, such as loans, landlords are hesitant to lower their rents.
Zempilas believes, however, that pressure should be put on landlords to activate empty spaces, because it does no one any good.
“We are in this together,” said Zempilas. “The property owners say the city is working hard. Not enough people come in; we cannot rent our space. But they have not tried to lower their rents. They have to look inside first. They play an important role in the rebirth of our city.”
When host Nadia Mitsopolous suggested a fine or higher be imposed on landlords who left their properties vacant, Zempilas took this seriously.
“If there was support from the real estate industry to do that, then absolutely. And that could be something where the Real Estate Council could decide to take the lead, because there is no doubt that it hurts our city if vacant properties continue to exist in our city. Lower your rental expectations and bring people in.”
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