Notre Dame development to enliven historic corner of Fremantle’s West End

The University of Notre Dame Australia is excited to announce plans for a new development at 3-5 High Street, Fremantle. If approved, this cornerstone development will provide excellent teaching and learning facilities for students while also contributing to the vibrancy and activation of a historically significant precinct.

The proposed development will house the University’s successful and highly rated School of Nursing & Midwifery, as well as a 200 seat performing arts theatre.

The upper floors of the building will feature state-of-the-art teaching spaces and nursing laboratories, providing an enhanced learning environment for our Nursing & Midwifery students.

The ground floor has been designed to maximise street activation of the West End. The ‘public facing’ uses at street level include a small café/bar that will address High Street, a retail tenancy on Cliff Street that will be accessed through the existing heritage façade, and the 200 seat theatre for use by both the wider community and the University.

Notre Dame is enthusiastic about what our proposed development will bring for the future education of our students, and we are also mindful that the site is both historically significant and a key element in the successful revitalisation of Fremantle’s West End.

Notre Dame’s architects and planners have sought and incorporated advice from the Heritage Council of Western Australia and the Fremantle Design Advisory Committee throughout the design process. Preservation and incorporation of the existing heritage façade has strongly guided the external design of the building.

The site at the corner of Cliff and High Streets is currently underutilised as a carpark. Notre Dame believes the site holds much potential and that its development will spark further activation of Fremantle’s the West End. We are confident our proposal balances the University’s need to provide the best possible facilities for our students with the historic and current-day significance of the site to the people and City of Fremantle.

History of the site

The site of 3-5 High Street (Lot 100) has been the location of significant commercial and residential uses since the early days of European settlement.

In the 1830s the site was home to a bakery and residence for WK Wood & Oakley, and in the 1840s a limestone structure that occupied the site was the residence of the Pace family.

WF Samson Residence, c. 1905. Source: City of Fremantle Library Local History Collection

Between 1885 and 1887, on the northern portion of the site at the corner of Cliff and High Streets, a two storey house was built as the home of WF Samson, son of notable merchant Lionel Samson who also lived in the adjoining single storey house on the site. WF Samson’s two storey home was demolished in 1953 and replaced some time later with a steel framed, metal roofed and open sided shed that was used for storing building materials.

Steel Framed Shed, c. 1970. Source: City of Fremantle Library Local History Collection

On the southern portion of the site, the extant façade was constructed between 1890 and 1895 in front of existing stone and shingle roof cottages and shops (circa 1881) to enhance their appearance.

This façade is now of heritage significance and has been dubbed by locals as the ‘Wedding Wall’. On many days you can find brides and grooms having their photos taken in front of the façade and its beautiful details. The proposed new Notre Dame building has been designed around this façade and includes another nod to its heritage by creating new retail spaces behind.

The buildings behind the façade were demolished in November 1967 to provide additional parking for Lionel Samson Pty Ltd. The steel shed on the northern part of the site was demolished in the 1980s. Since then the entire site has been used as a car park. Notre Dame purchased the site in 2011.

The ‘Wedding Wall’. The Cliff St façade of the site will be preserved and incorporated
into the design for the proposed new facilities for Notre Dame’s School of Nursing & Midwifery.

New life for an old site

Notre Dame’s proposed School of Nursing & Midwifery together with facilities for its School of Arts & Sciences, if approved, will be a signature building for The University of Notre Dame Australia and the West End of Fremantle.

The proposal follows best practices in its design, materials, response to contemporary architectural concerns, as well as its scale and relationship to the existing façade, adjoining buildings and greater streetscape. The new building design follows the contemporary and yet materially respectful language developed by the University and its architects on previous projects.

Aerial view of site, with 3-5 High Street bordered in red. Source: MCDF Architects.

Proposal and Approval Process

In November 2016, The University of Notre Dame Australia will be proceeding with our formal application for planning approval with the Fremantle Council. The Council’s approvals process includes formal avenues for further public consultation. We would advise that any formal comment or feedback should be provided directly to the City of Fremantle in accordance with their process. If, however, you wish to raise any queries or provide any feedback directly to us, please direct it to or contact Ms Hannah Beazley, Director of Media and Communications, on (08) 9433 0347 or Mr Leigh Dawson, Senior Communications Coordinator, on (08) 9433 0569.

Notre Dame is confident that the final outcome will be an excellent one for the University and the Fremantle community, of which we are a part.