Elizabeth Quay changed the face of Perth
In April this year we ventured into to the city and the picturesque Swan River for our first visit to see if the newly opened Elizabeth Quay had changed the face of Perth. Betty’s Jetty, as Perthites affectionately nicknamed the new development, created a lot of contention over the cost, closure of roads, disruption to local businesses and cutting down a 100 year old Moreton Bay figtree, all in the name of progress.
Despite being open since January, we hadn’t yet had the opportunity to check out Perth’s newest and controversial multi-million dollar development. Lots of debate, dramas, dredging and dollars went into this new development, so we took our time wandering around to see for ourselves what all the uproar was about.
The first thing we noticed was there are lots of seating areas so people can relax and enjoy the impressive view of the Swan River.
This area is called The Landing and the first prominent feature we notice is a tall sculpture. This entry statement piece stands at the height of an eight storey building and is called Spanda. Dubbed the paperclip, at a cost of $1.3 million it was designed to replicate the ripples of water and links the river, land and sky.
We walked along the eastern promenade, past the wooden boardwalk housing the 24 short stay boat moorings, which are available for public use, towards the contentious Florence Hummerston Kiosk. This is not a new build, but was painstakingly relocated brick by brick from the Perth Esplanade. Built originally as a tearoom in 1928, the Kiosk has seen many changes. The building has transitioned from Esplanade Tearooms throughout the 40’s and 50’s, Annabella’s Nightclub 77-80, The Converted Duke (a Salvation Army youth drop-in centre) 82-85, Florence Hummerston Day Care Centre 85-88 and Grand Palace Chinese Restaurant in 2004 until its closure and relocation. The West Australian Government commissioned the relocation to the island at the centre of Elizabeth Quay in March 2015 at a cost of $11 million, $7 million of that was compensation to the Wang family who had a 40 year lease on the building. It’s fitting that the landmark has reverted to its name prior to the relocation. Florence Hummerston who lived from 1889-1983 was a tireless campaigner and Perth’s first female councillor. She was Vice-President of the Women’s Service Guild and helped establish Women’s Australian National Service during WWII. In 1943 Florence set up and directed Wanslea Hostel, an emergency service for children of sick mothers, she launched League of Home Help for Sick & Aged in 1953 and Meals on Wheels in 1954.
Outside the Kiosk is a statue of Bessie Mabel Rischbieth MBE, (1874-1967), a social activist and founder of the Children’s Protection Society in WA. Bessie was an influential feminist and activist for women’s rights and environmental conservation. She lobbied and opposed the development of the Narrows Bridge in 1964 and in protest, Bessie stood in front of a bulldozer to prevent the development on the Swan River. At almost 90 years old, she entered the river, standing in their path, barefoot and holding an umbrella. Despite her protest development continued and ironically the statue in her honour sits in Elizabeth Quay, Perth’s largest waterfront development. She is seen gazing toward the Narrows Bridge, barefoot with her umbrella. Her passion for the Swan is fitting with Elizabeth Quay’s reconnection of the city with the waterfront, which encourages people to enjoy the natural beauty of the river. Strangely, and maybe a message for anyone opposing development, there is no signage at her statue, no name, description, nothing, despite other ‘landmarks’ being signed with an explanation.
From the Kiosk we pass the Island playground with water, sand pits and a climbing tower and on to the key architectural feature at Elizabeth Quay. The 110 metre ‘S’ shaped suspended bridge. The centrepiece feature is 20 metres high and can be used by cyclists and pedestrians. Meandering on the winding bridge provides a bird’s eye view of the stunning inlet and spectacular views back to the city. Nicknamed Boobies Bridge or McDonalds Bridge, because of its opposing double arches, it spans the inlet’s sweeping walkways connecting the new promenades, the island, the ferry terminal and Barrack Street Jetty. The bridge is illuminated and at night the changing spectrum of colours looks amazing. There is also an illuminated artwork that runs the entire length of the inlet. The Edge, is an animated lighting element that changes colours, reacting to the environment and can be synchronised to music for special events.
At the other side of the bridge we come across First Contact, a5 metre tall silver bird in a boat. This giant bird that has come to roost here is inspired by the Noongar people’s first visions of European settlers. The Noongars saw the distant sailing ships looking like floating birds bearing the white faced spirits of their ancestors, and it was thought their relatives were coming back to life. The bird with its wings outstretched on a boat, reflects the Noongar story of their people coming back from Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) to rejoin them.
On the western promenade is the Transperth ferry terminal where ferries depart for Mends Street Jetty across the other side of the river in South Perth. Here you can take a Gondola ride, sipping champagne in the plush red velvet upholstered Venetian style gondola.
It was never going to be an easy build, but after years of promises and expectations Elizabeth Quay opened in January. But one part with ongoing problems is still yet to be resolved. Almost a year after it first opened, the BHP Billiton Water Park located at the primary entry point, opposite the Elizabeth Quay Train Station on the western side is still closed. The water park replicates the Dream story about the creation of the Milky Way, imitating outback lakes and the paving runs in a ripple pattern and due to contamination issues was closed in February. The free community attraction designed as an interactive water feature using jets, misting and lighting to create water choreography and a relaxing kaleidoscope of colour day and night has no confirmed date to re-open.
Our first visit to see what all the hype was about was in April for the Night Noodle Markets and we had our second visit a few weeks ago when we followed the herd in the Cow Parade. Both times we enjoyed a relaxing walk around our the boardwalks and over the bridge, walking along the 1.5km of continuous promenades. The Elizabeth Quay inlet provides an opportunity to reconnect the beautiful city of Perth to the waterfront, dining, relaxing and being entertained by the water edge in line with the slogan “The river, The city, Together again.
The aim of this long controversial project was to deliver a family friendly space for activities, where city workers can grab a bite to eat and to be a unique destination where us Sandgropers (West Australians) can proudly take the visitors our state. After a 3 week opening celebration of fireworks, laser and water shows, the Fringe World Festival, Diner en Blanc, the Night Noodle Markets, Lego Brick Man Experience, Beef & Beer Festival, Swan Festival of Lights, Arcadia, Cow Parade and many more, it seems Elizabeth Quay is a crowd pleaser and that the developers achieved their goal.
Open since January, Elizabeth Quay has had more than four million visitors and already has plans for at least one new addition. It is confirmed that a handcrafted Venetian carousel will be operating by mid December. The carousel is being crafted by the same company that built the carousel at Eiffel Tower. Also allowed for in the original plans, but still no design, approval or funding is the much talked about cable car.
Sure the Elizabeth Quay development was overdue, over budget and the subject for many conversations and debates during the four year building period. But we are pretty damn impressed. Elizabeth Quay has changed the face of Perth, and given a huge boost to the vitality of the city, bringing energy and life to a part of the city that was previously under-utilised.
Have you visited Elizabeth Quay? Do you think this new development has changed the face of Perth?
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