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For years, Port Adelaide has been talked about as our city’s next boom area. Now, with extra workers moving in and substantial developments taking place, the port is finally set to live up to its potential.
The news the Naval Group will set up its headquarters in the old TAFE SA building in Port Adelaide has been welcomed with open arms by local business owners.
Naval Group opening its headquarters in the Port, along with other major developments like the Dock One and Fletcher’s Slip residential developments, is set to bring a surge of people out west, and business owners say this is exactly what’s needed.
Owner of The Pear cafe at Alberton, and City of Port Adelaide Enfield councillor, Joost den Hartog believes there’s never been a better time for the Port.
“We’ve always been told about the potential for the Port but it’s not potential anymore – it’s reality,” he said.
“You just need to look at the amount of investment that been made in Port Adelaide. I believe it’s just a matter of time – probably within a year – before we’re going to see some massive changes.”
Port Mall Newsagency owners Leoni and Philip Jenner in their store at Port Adelaide. Picture Mark Brake
Mr den Hartog said many ‘grassroots’ private initiatives are driving business in the Port.
“There’s an anticipation from many business owners that good times are coming to Port Adelaide.
“The problem has always been the supply of people – it’s never been busy enough to create that vibrant feeling over the whole area of the Port.
“In the last two to three years that’s been significant investment from private business and smaller operators that have seen an opportunity in the Port.
“I think it’s a combination of the charm of the Port and the building stock that’s there but also the anticipation of a lot more people moving into the area and living and working in the Port.”
Mr den Hartog said, for his business, revenue was still down on pre-COVID-19 times but he was fortunate to enjoy a loyal following in the local community. It’s this local community support he believes will drive the Port forward.
“I’m convinced (the boom) wasn’t too far away until COVID-19 happened and I hope that won’t be too much of a setback,” he said.
“We were in a similar position in 2007 – when there was a lot of interest in the Port – then the GFC set us back. I’m just hoping it (the hit from COVID-19) won’t last as long as the GFC set us back.”
Long-time Port business owners Phil Jenner and his wife Leoni have owned the Port Mall Newsagency for more than 20 years.
Mr Jenner said coronavirus had been a mixed bag for the business – with an initial rush as people pivoted to work from home, followed by a lull – but he said it was now back to “pretty much business as usual”.
He said the news of Naval Group setting up its headquarters in the heart of Port Adelaide couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We need people working right in the heart of Port Adelaide to help drive small business,” he said.
“Shipbuilding will bring a lot of people to the area, particularly a lot of families. We’ve got all the infrastructure and businesses here, we just need more people.”
THE NEXT FREMANTLE ... OR WILLIAMSTOWN
Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt says the secret to developing a port city bustling with people is simple.
“It’s about jobs, it’s about people visiting and it’s about people living there,” Mr Pettitt said. “You need them all and when you have them all and the area is activated day and night, weekends and during the week, it’s great.”
Drawing on his 19 years as mayor, Mr Pettitt said just like Fremantle, Port Adelaide could be transformed into a thriving port precinct.
During a visit six years ago, Mr Pettitt said he noticed Port Adelaide shared many qualities with his home city, including amazing heritage buildings and being located close to the CBD.
“There is a lot in common but what is separating them is that level of activity,” he said. But that separation level is set to lessen, with news that Naval Group will open its new headquarters in Port Adelaide within months.
Mr Pettitt said Fremantle was brimming with restaurants, boutique breweries, shops, parks and museums that also enticed people to the area.
On top of this, it is home to countless events that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, including the “hugely successful” Fremantle Markets. “People like to be around other people,” Mr Pettitt said.
He saids Port Adelaide had “amazing bones” and its heritage buildings should be protected and celebrated. “Don’t knock down what you’ve got but also don’t be afraid of building other things to get people in,” Mr Pettitt said.
This is a sentiment shared by Hobson Bay councillor Jonathon Marsden, who has been a long-time resident of Melbourne’s first port settlement, Williamstown.
“You need a sensible blend of the existing fabric with new things that people want to see,” Cr Marsden said.
“It needs to be done tastefully. The real risk is it becomes another Gold Coast and you lose that sense of being able to wander around the promenade and the waterfront.”
Cr Marsden said one of Williamtown’s most popular attractions was the Seaworks Maritime Precinct, where old sheds have been revamped and in a post-COVID world would again host functions and events.
He said his home shared a similar backstory to Port Adelaide, of being a working-class suburb. But unlike Port Adelaide, he said Williamstown was now a “well-to-do place”, with lots of coastal parks, thriving yacht clubs, restaurants and a popular destination for day trippers.
One of the newest businesses in the Port – Open Door Yoga – has only been operating for six weeks but has had a great reaction to its opening, drawing in more than 100 students.
“I’ve been surprised just how great it’s been,” co-owner Tyler Chappell said.
Mr Chappell and his partner India Trestrail were living in Vietnam when COVID-19 hit and took over running the yoga studio when they returned home.
“It’s been very busy, the business has grown more than we could have hoped in such a short time,” Ms Trestrail said.
Ms Trestrail said it was an exciting time to be running a business in the Port, especially with their yoga studio so close to the new Dock One development.
”We haven’t been here for long but from what we’ve seen the Port has a beautiful community,” she said.
“We consider ourselves really lucky to be a part of it and are excited to both see and be a part of its growth.”
Heidi Barreau has been the owner of the Lighthouse Wharf Hotel for the past five years and she said at the moment business is very strong.
Ms Barreau said it’s a great time to be based in Port Adelaide.
“In the past, everyone has said (a boom) is going to happen but this is more than just people saying it will happen, so much is going ahead in the Port,” she said.
“There’s a new hotel (Rydges) that’s going in nearby, which a lot of local businesses are excited about, and a lot of homes being built.
“There’s a lot of development that’s either already happening or in place ready to go.”
Ms Barreau said a community feel was one of the Port’s biggest assets.
“I find when people move into this area – they really live and breathe local,” she said.
Open Door Yoga’s India Trestrail and Tyler Chappel. Picture: Tom Huntley
Amanda McKinnon owns LaserTat Tattoo Removal in Port Adelaide and is a member of the Port Adelaide Guide business group.
She said it was a massive boost to the Port to have the former TAFE SA headquarters filled with Naval Group workers rather than laying empty.
“A lot of businesses, particularly local coffee shops and retail shops, will benefit,” she said.
Anika Havey has owned Folklore Cafe overlooking the water at Port Adelaide for the past five years and says her business has never been busier.
Ms Havey grew up in Port Adelaide and originally opened her cafe as part of a co-working Renew Adelaide space with three other businesses.
“We’re actually busier than we were pre-COVID and I’m not sure why,” she said.
“We had to close for a few months (due to COVID shutdowns) and when we came back, we were absolutely slammed.
“I’m not sure what’s changed – whether it’s people not being able to travel, people who missed visiting this spot or whether it’s just people trying to support local.”
Ms Havey’s business is located close to the old TAFE SA building where the Naval Group headquarters will be, so is in a great position to benefit from the extra people in the area.
She said one of the major benefits from having the Naval Group HQ nearby would be consistent trade throughout the week.
As a proud Port Adelaidean, Ms Havey believes there’s plenty to look forward to in the near future.
“I’m very optimistic for the Port. From what I’m seeing at the moment, it’s all looking very positive,” she said.
This article was first published on Adelaide Now