Fremantle project takes pop-up to MANY new heights

When Myer closed the doors on its store in Fremantle, WA, the five-level building was left vacant.

It sat empty for six months – and could have stayed that way for a couple of years – until an enterprising plan turned it into what could be described as a massive pop-up project.

The five-level building is now home to MANY, an eclectic mix of fledgling designers, retailers and artists – and it is where they make and sell their wares.

But the attractions don’t stop there. Up on top there is a rooftop bar, complete with its own helipad, and there will soon be a drive-on cinema.

The Myer building sits in Kings Square, in the heart of Fremantle, and is owned by Sirona Capital.

Sirona Capital and the City of Fremantle are redeveloping the Kings Square precinct in a $220 million project that includes a retail and office development on the Myer site.

But once Myer moved out, the building was going to be empty until the redevelopment project kicked in.

That’s where an organization called Spacemarket came in, with its sustainable aim of matching “disused space with useful people”.

Spacemarket director Nic Brunsdon says they were already working with the City of Fremantle when the Myer building became empty.

“It was a pretty bad look to have a vacant department store in the town centre,” he says.

Brunsdon says Sirona Capital has been “wonderful”.

“They saw this as a good opportunity to display that retail can work in this location,” he says, “and be a good corporate citizen in the town they are looking to redevelop.”

Spacemarket filled the building, with carefully chosen tenants paying “heavily subsidised” rents and given access to business support to help them “grow and graduate out of the space”.

That graduation process is essential, as MANY will end once the redevelopment project is ready to go ahead.

“This is a soft first step. The first opportunity for a few of these guys,” Brunsdon says.

“(It is a) test to see if they have a sustainable and structurally sound business model.”

Mayor Brad Pettit says the MANY project is the start of a rejuvenation of the city.

“The future of retail of Fremantle won’t be about competing with big box stores and suburban shopping centres,” he told the ABC.

“It defines Fremantle as a hip, bohemian, artistic kind of place. That’s what I want it to be. It feels like the (MANY) project is a great launch pad for that.

“It is at the heart of Fremantle’s retail district. When this space works, everything around it starts to work better.”