The iconic Subiaco markets site is seemingly destined for redevelopment with reports a proposal for a four-storey complex that will include 4,850 square metres of office space is due to be lodged with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority in the near future. Now of course re-development is the property owners right, and of course such a proposal is entirely sensible for an owner seeking to realise the development potential of a property within a redevelopment area, BUT, what about me and my needs?!
Whilst the population of Subiaco is set to receive a substantial boost from new developments such as 'the Strand' and 'Viridian' at china green (to name a few), cultural amenity, entertainment and shopping options are not in the best shape, and are arguably in decline. Not being a resident of Subiaco myself means that every time I visit I am repeatedly shocked at just how quiet and often deserted the place can be. This has been the case for quite some time but has become more evident in recent years with enhanced retail offerings in the CBD and Claremont apparently stealing the show. Subiaco's once notable Rokeby Road retail strip is struggling to attract shoppers, and now with the probable loss of both the markets and the Subiaco oval, I can't really imagine what will create and sustain the 'buzz' within the town centre in the future.
What really gets me though is that one of Perth's only genuine and cheap (fruit & veg at least) food markets is purportedly going to be replaced by a Coles (arrgh!) and Target (arrgh arrgh!) amongst other things. Of course I shop at Coles and find it convenient, but its replacement of the markets feels a little bit salt-in-woundy. It would appear that Subiacan's (Subiaconites?) feel the same way. In a recent interview with the ABC, City of Subiaco Mayor Heather Henderson spoke of the importance of the markets to the community,
"I am particularly keen on the markets and go there every weekend, so I'm speaking on behalf of the Subiaco community who will be devastated at the loss of that alternate shopping mode, which has been so popular for our community and the wider community in Western Australia."
- Heather Henderson - City of Subiaco Mayor
The Mayor went on to highlight that there may be other suitable locations where the markets can be re-established, but I find it hard to imagine them becoming anything other than an expensive, touristy and overpriced substitute, that like so many other 'place making' style markets, will function primarily to provide material for Instagram, and secondly, to personally annoy me.
The last thing we need to replace a good value, diverse, and highly valued commercial market, is an overpriced, hipster filled, organic produce tote'n farmers market where one cup of hand crafted Himalayan mountain bean coffee costs the equivalent of the entire Perth to Mandurah railway line (or near enough).
It begs the question, can the planning and development industry do more to help Subiaco? I have no doubt that following an influx of new residents, Subiaco will again become commercially and culturally viable enough to reinvigorate itself. In the meantime however, it would be wonderful to see icons such as the widely popular (and thus seemingly viable?) Subiaco markets re-incorporated into a new development. Especially in this case where, if done correctly, it would surely be a win-win situation (at least for me personally) Where both money and places can be made in harmony.
Surely organisations like the MRA and the City of Subiaco could negotiate with shop owners and developers to keep such a valuable piece of the suburbs identity and functionality intact and operational! I mean for the love of VEG! It is particularly frustrating to watch because as a planner, I will spend my whole career trying to create and encourage vibrant, viable and genuine places that would dream about being as good as the Subiaco markets, and yet here it's been thrown away! Do you know how many tax/rate payer dollars will go into setting up the fake and likely non-viable replacement markets (if at all?)
As it stands currently, the current, future, not yet proposed, but maybe soon to be proposed, proposal, isn’t technically breaking any laws, but it is breaking my heart, or at least my brain (breaking my brain?), and it's definitely (potentially) going to blow my weekly fruit & veg budget. It seems a shame that the planning/place making apparatus cannot step in and negotiate a better outcome for an asset such as the Subiaco markets. For where else can I go on my weekends and pretend that I am in fact not in Perth, but in some foreign mysterious market town where excitement abounds and danger lurks around every corner?…..probably not Coles.