April 5, 2024
Andrew Howe
From Brownfield to Goldfield

White Bay Power Station, a vibrant repurposed heritage coal fired powered station that sits proudly as a cultural epicentre of the redeveloped inner Sydney precinct, serves as a reminder on the opportunity for the adaptive reuse of heritage infrastructure, such as our own East Perth Power Station, in Western Australia.

When we think globally and indeed look at the recently restored White Bay Power Station, there are key traits that connect successful precinct development on the back of these assets vision, risk appetite, investment and critical mass.

The White Bay and East Perth power station stations are remarkably similar in both their histories and their form.  Both developed in stages between 1912 and 1950 and both were essential for the development of electric trolley bus and tram systems for their respective cities and as both city’s grids developed, these centrally located, coal fired power stations became redundant with a few years of each other.

Fast forward over a half a century since their closure in the mid 1980’s, and both vast facilities sat vacant and slowly decaying as their rejuvenation price tags increased exponentially.  In both cases they were included in redevelopment areas and had attempted to find joint venture partners to capitalise on their waterside locations, however successive attempts stalled.

The solution doesn't sit simply in government investment. Over time White Bay Power Station has become part of a larger redevelopment precinct that thanks to Sydney Metro will soon be directly connected by underground rail from the CBD and westwards to Parramatta.  Add to this the development of a large harbour foreshore park, dozens of waterfront apartment sites and a changing surrounding cultural landscape from light industrial to mixed use, the key piece missing was the power station and its restoration.

These are opportunities that are starting to emerge for the East Perth Power Station. The development of Golden Sedayu's land at Belmont Point just across the river, the intensification of the East Perth Train Station precinct or potentially an expanded ferry system, not forgetting the global tourism content and vibrancy of Optus Stadium. As these and other opportunities come to fruition, the East Perth site has the potential to be seen in a new economic and social context.