WA’S only arts precinct has called for greater protection as developers eye off the prime land in the West Perth wedge south of Newcastle Street.
The area’s been redubbed “the Pickle District” in recent years as arts and cultural uses have reinhabited the old warehouses and dormant factories.
But its rejuvenation has started attracting developers, prompting fears it’ll undergo the same gentrification as other arts precincts around the world: Once creatives have made a dusty old district trendy, it becomes a prime target for developers and anyone creative gets priced out.
Vincent council is currently working on a new framework that’ll set the long-term vision for the area and drive policies and rules intended to keep the district’s identity. Aims include:
• Preserving art and cultural uses;
• Keeping the industrial character and encouraging buildings to be re-used if possible;
• Encouraging the night-time economy with lighting and safety improvements; and,
• Giving developers incentives to include space for the creative sector in any new buildings, such as requiring a percentage of affordable housing, or mandating they offer a five-year peppercorn lease to a creative use if they want extra height bonuses.
Many people who responded to community consultation said they don’t want “franchises or major corporations” coming to Pickle.
But the draft framework’s too late for one large franchise, with a state authority last year approving a Bunnings that’ll be built on a huge conglomerated multi-block site (“Pickle approval ‘guts’ arts precinct,” Voice, November 19, 2022).
Pickle District Town Team chair Jon Denaro attended Vincent council’s March 9 briefing, urging them to strengthen the framework to better protect the Pickle District.
His arts hub Voxlab is one of several creative businesses that’ll be displaced by the Bunnings. He told councillors more developers would soon be wanting to build in the district, with imminent plans afoot for the large caryard site.
“Next week we go into negotiations with the next development to come along. You know how the Bunnings development went for all of us – we’re kicked out. So we’re trying to keep this thing alive… and we don’t have much to stand on here.”
Not having a framework in place already meant they couldn’t broker a deal for Bunnings to provide the kind of community art space the locals had hoped for.
“We’re hoping that this document can provide us with that sort of clout,” Mr Denaro said, adding that existing users would be fine with development as long as there’s a fair amount of space preserved for the arts “in perpetuity”.
He reminded councillors this was “the only arts precinct in Western Australia”.
Councillors vote on the framework at their May 16 meeting, and mayor Emma Cole asked staff to look into whether they could require developers to offer creative spaces in perpetuity.
“I’d definitely be interested if that’s possible,” Ms Cole said.
The Pickle District just held its third After Dark event on May 6 with a roaming art crawl packing the venues and alleys with art lovers. The PD Town Team is optimistic the district will endure the onslaught of developers and are already planning a fourth.
by DAVID BELL