Curtain call for public space?

STIRLING council is on the verge of selling a strip of land beside the Astor Theatre in Mt Lawley, but locals say they’re missing a “magical opportunity” to make it a vibrant public space.

The land, which forms part of the car park in front of the Fat Dragon Diner, is going for a song.

It’s valued at $1818 per square meter, but the council’s proposing to sell it for $1600 per square metre.

In 2007 the owner of the block behind it wanted to buy it back “with an intention to develop both lots,” according to an old council agenda from 2011.

The Mount Lawley Society is concerned the strip will get amalgamated with the block behind, and they’ll end up with a big building all the way down to the footpath.

They’d rather have a spacious alfresco area or some greenery amongst the pavement, like the wide outdoor area at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle. Along with locals and traders the society are lobbying the council to keep the land.

Society president Paul Collins says Mt Lawley lacks public spaces.

• Mt Lawley community members and traders aren’t keen on a car park on public land being sold off along Walcott Street. Photo by Steve Grant

Lateral thinking

“The society is not opposed to a redevelopment of the adjoining land but believes council needs to maintain a significant portion, if not all, of the setback it owns to allow for vibrant, alfresco dining and public space for trees and seating if and when the adjoining site is developed.”

Mr Collins says he is surprised the land is being sold for less than market value.

“In my 20 years of commercial property sales experience, an adjoining owner should be paying a premium of up to 20 per cent; not receiving a discount of more than 10 per cent.”

Mr Collins says “with a little bit of lateral thinking, a new development with an awning above and landscaping, the area could become a vibrant evening dining option for the Mt Lawley community, particularly adjacent to the Astor Theatre”.

Stirling councillors discussed the item behind closed doors at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

They voted to send it back to their committee for further discussion, so the decision’s been deferred until at least the next council meeting.

The strip was purchased by the council decades ago when there were plans to make a left turn lane into Beaufort Street. In 2011 the council considered selling it off and using the funds to build a town square in Mount Lawley, but it didn’t go ahead.

by DAVID BELL

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