Build it and Bunnings will come
HUGE changes are planned for the former West Perth industrial zone dubbed ‘the Pickle District’, but the existing small businesses who revitalised the neighbourhood face being turfed out by a Bunnings megadevelopment.
The site takes up half a city block and the private owner is planning to sell to Wesfarmers. They’ve submitted plans to the state’s Joint Development Assessment Panel to build a Bunnings and seven other assorted commercial tenancies including a liquor store, small bar, and fast food outlet.
A childcare centre would be on the second floor and some kind of community studio and outdoor space would go on the rooftop.
But the development will unseat a collection of small businesses, arts types and a church who’ve all moved in over the past few years and started transforming the empty warehouses and old factories into an arts hub.
Compared to a few years back the area’s now pretty lively on a weekend night amid art gallery openings, weddings, parties, church events, and Fringe performances in festival time.
A Hatch RobertsDay report on the state of arts hubs in Perth released in December 2021 called the Pickle District “the most successful” example in Perth of under-utilised land being organically regenerated, and emphasised a need to protect the character if large scale redevelopment occurred.
Nicola Hibbert owns Inner City Fitness, one of the businesses that’ll be ousted if the Bunnings is built.
The first she’d heard of a plan to redevelop was when signs went up advertising for public comment.
Ms Hibbert has three years left on her lease but like the other tenants there’s a redevelopment clause to end it with six months’ notice.
The uncertainty’s made it trickier.
She doesn’t know if they’ll be moved out as soon as the sale goes through, or when the development’s approved, or when construction actually properly starts, which can be up to four years after approval.
“We’re in limbo at the moment,” Ms Hibbert says.
She was an early starter in the Pickle District, moving in eight and a half years ago amid a couple of auto shops and finding the old spacious warehouse was the perfect spot for a gym.
Jon Denaro is chair of the Pickle District, a not-for-profit town team that incorporated in 2018 to work with the locals and Vincent council to steer the area’s renewal. His art studio Voxlab on Old Aberdeen Place will also have to move out if the Bunnings plan goes ahead.
He says “a lot of people are talking about the idea of starting arts hubs – [in] Subiaco, Perth CBD – and here we are with one that is real and happening.
“This development smashes all that with a set of franchise plonks.
“This destroys everything we have been building. The community and the whole potential.”
The development’s hired planners Planning Solutions writes in the application that the project will include a community space and a rooftop event space “to continue to provide art events and ensure the district is not relinquished following the demolition of existing warehouses across the development area”.
But the not-for-profit is unlikely to be able to afford that space, and the actual businesses that make up the rank and file of the town team aren’t catered for.
Mr Denaro says “our group, the Pickles, are not opposing development. We just want to influence – to create something smart that is needed, rather than something that is lowest common denominator”.
For Ms Hibbert’s gym, it’ll be tough to find a new spot.
A gym needs a lot of space, and other inner-city gyms have had trouble with noise complaints from residential neighbours being too close.
“It’s a shame,” she says. “It’s a nice little area.”