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Freo cooks up brand new plan
The West Australian Anatoly Mezhov and Irene Polo have opened a tapas bar, Don Tapa inside a repurposed shipping container at the E Shed Markets. Picture: Megan Powell/The West Australian

Fremantle is climbing back into the hearts and minds of the discerning public and reinventing itself as the destination of choice for food, drink and nightlife.

In the past six months, more than a dozen businesses have opened in the port city, from the eatery Bread in Common to the pop-up shipping-container-turned-restaurant Don Tapa.

In the coming months, the City of Fremantle will be on the hunt for dozens more as it ramps up its new branding strategy.

These places will hopefully be the building blocks of a "new" Fremantle - a city of young, modern and hip business owners who aren't afraid to experiment, invent and innovate.

Much has been said about the $1 billion worth of developments in the pipeline at the port city but hotels, office complexes and supermarkets can only do so much in luring crowds back.

This week Fremantle launched its "soft" strategy for revitalisation, with a marketing strategy inviting people "to be part of the story".

Playing an integral role in the strategy is the city's new economic development and marketing manager Tom Griffiths.

He was employed in a similar role at the City of Perth for five years and will direct Fremantle's rebranding strategy.

The Perth CBD has undergone a metamorphosis over the past few years, re-emerging as "the" place of choice for a new generation of diners and drinkers.

Mr Griffiths will take the lessons learnt from the successful rebranding of Perth and seek to apply them to an entirely different context.

"To me Fremantle is a place that is not squeaky clean or glossy," he said. "It's not elitist or exclusive - not that these things aren't good in other contexts but they are not Fremantle.

"It's a port city with dirt under its nails, it has bruises and laugh lines but it's a place that invites people from all over.

"We want to enhance all that is unique and different about Fremantle and make it WA's cultural and creative hub."

Mr Griffiths, who spearheaded the City of Perth's successful laneways strategy under which venues such as Ezra Pound, Lalla Rookh and Helvetica were opened, said he hoped to attract 30 niche businesses into Fremantle within the next two years.

"We're not interested in having lots of large chain stores, you can go to a mall for that," he said.

"We want a wide variety of boutique and unique businesses that have their own personalities." Husband and wife team Anatoly Mezhov and Irene Polo opened Don Tapa three months ago at the E-Shed Markets. Their next project, The Mantle, will be a WA hospitality first.

A 2000sqm disused warehouse will be converted into an "incubation hub" for chefs, retailers, artists and creatives, breathing new life into Fremantle's east end.

The space will be decked out with repurposed shipping containers such as the one used at their tapas venue.

"It will be a hub for chefs, artists, anyone who has a business idea but doesn't have the money to start up on their own," Mr Mezhov said. "They'll be able to rent a unique space where they can cook, sell, create.

"We hope it will be a place that's buzzing with activity all day, where you can grab a morning coffee, come back for lunch and then a drink and tapas in the evening, all served up by different businesses."