Notre Dame development on historic corner of Fremantle’s West End

In November 2016, The University of Notre Dame Australia announced plans for a new development at 3-5 High Street in Fremantle to house its successful and highly rated School of Nursing & Midwifery. Notre Dame’s architects and planners worked to a brief designed to provide the best possible facilities for students, to maximise street activation of the West End precinct and retain the existing heritage façade. Advice from the Heritage Council of Western Australia and the Fremantle Design Advisory Committee was sought and incorporated throughout the design process.

The University was enthusiastic about the resulting development and what it would bring for the future education of our students. The University was also mindful that the site is historically significant, and represents a key element in the continuing revitalisation of Fremantle’s West End.

Following consideration by the Fremantle Council, the University adjourned its subsequent application before the Joint Development Assessment Panel. The purpose of the adjournment was to consider matters raised by the Council (both in reports and discussions) and independently, by the community and community bodies. In addition, the University engaged the TPG Place Match to undertake further independent consultation regarding the proposed development.

As a result of this detailed consultation, and following thorough consideration of all feedback, the University has decided not to proceed with its current plan and to withdraw its current application for planning approval.

The University would like to thank all those who have contributed to this discussion. We have listened to, and taken account of, all feedback – both critical and complimentary. This has not only helped us reach our decision not to proceed with the current plan, but excited us about the potential for this building.

The University does therefore remain committed to this development and to ensuring that our nursing and midwifery students have access to state-of-the-art learning facilities. We also remain committed to our role as a key member of the Fremantle community, in developing a building that is architecturally and historically significant, sensitive to heritage, and an important contributor to the continuing revitalisation of the West End of Fremantle.

We will be releasing information about the next steps in relation to this development in the coming weeks.

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.