It takes imagination to envisage Kings Square as a future hub of central Perth. The slice of land at the heart of the Northbridge Link development between Wellington and Roe streets is a massive construction site as work proceeds on infrastructure and buildings to house an expanse of offices, retail outlets, apartments and public open space.

But the release this week of artists’ impressions of two residential towers for the one-hectare Kings Square site provides a glimpse of what is to come. The buildings of 42 and 48 storeys will house 563 apartments between them and will include retail tenancies at street level. This is a major and welcome step in the move to entice more residents to the inner city, especially in an area that has been long overlooked.

In the city centre, proponents of big residential projects have little choice but to build up. There is little or no resistance to high-rise because the central business district is the natural home of tall buildings.

It is a different matter away from the city centre. Perth has always been a city with a low-rise sensibility. In the suburbs, single storey dwellings have long been the norm and in some cases a homeowner proposing just a second storey is enough to set off a neighbourhood dispute.

This big block, single-dwelling approach has suited Perth well for a long time but the city has grown rapidly in recent years. This has put pressure on land supplies and sent real estate prices sky-high as the metropolitan area spreads ever outward.

This mindset has to change. Even though the heat has well and truly come out of expansion of the mining and resources industries, the population of Perth is still expected to grow significantly over coming decades.

Accommodating these new residents must involve higher developments, and not just in the city centre. Inner-city suburbs will need to soak up much of this growth, as will hubs along main transport routes.

There has been significant resistance to some key projects. A plan for a 16-storey residential project on the old Pavilion markets site in Subiaco was subjected to a fierce campaign and was initially rejected by the City of Subiaco. The developer ultimately had to sidestep the council and get approval from a joint development assessment panel.

The concerns about the changing face of well-established suburbs are understandable but it is not sustainable for a local council to resist all high-rise because it is not in keeping with local character.

The Subiaco Pavilion site is vacant, prime real estate next to a train station and is crying out for redevelopment.

This project and other proposed residential towers nearby will significantly boost Subiaco.

It will change the suburb in some ways but a handful of developments do not amount to the destruction of heritage character.

Clearly, high-rise is not suitable to every site and must be subject to robust planning processes. But on issues of land use and major development, the interests of the city as a whole must take precedence over the desires of local residents.


© The West Australian