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Stirling Towers Highgate

Built in 1971, Stirling Towers in Highgate was a housing department apartment complex with 79 units. Made from reinforced concrete panels that were bolted together over 3-4 months (with the fitout taking a much longer time), the State Government paid $935,000 for the apartments, with payments made in installations throughout the construction period. The complex consisted of 24 three-bedroom units with 55 having two bedrooms over 12 floors, although some sources state there were 11 or 13.

Many fondly recall a sense of community whilst living in Stirling Towers, perhaps more so in the first 15-20 years. It appears there was a steady decline in positive memories, as social issues particularly drug abuse and domestic violence mars many of those commenting online in the years later, particularly post-2000. In the years between 2011-2016, stories of hookers occupying the communal laundry as a place of business or a toilet, drug users shooting up in communal areas and bottles being thrown from higher levels onto neighbouring roofs and into their gardens seem commonplace.

Stirling Towers became known as "Suicide Towers", "Hell Towers" and "Psycho Towers".

The lifts of course, a familiar issue in many locations including the old Nedlands REGIS Wyvern aged care apartment complex, seemed to be more out of service than in operation. Although the lifts at Stirling Towers was renown for the constant stench of urine.

Major plumbing issues appear to have played a big part in the demise of Stirling Towers but no doubt, potential asbestos, continual petty crime, drug use, violence and general antisocial behaviour would have contributed in their own way.

Rehoming the tenants was the biggest task Homeswest/Housing Authority/Department of Housing (how many times do they feel they need to change their name which does little to change their reputation, whether good or bad??) have ever managed. Around 65 of the 79 tenants were relocated with the remainder vacating on their own accord.

To this date, a number of squatters still appear to be residing in the apartments and I've personally noticed atleast three units from my view on Smith Street. PSS Security tend to respond to alarms on an average 15 minutes with the most being 49 minutes (based on personal research with urban explorers in 2022). Previous security when they were onsite 24/7 was contracted to MCS Security.

Neighbours still continue lobbying the good-intentioned state government for action and perhaps it's at that moment where progress is being made, a change of government is imminent. The continuance of the same social issues, which seems to occur in the area regardless, constant Site Sentry alarms blaring away with their sirens and verbal messages of law enforcement being informed of a trespassers presence, feral nutsacks smashing windows to compensate for some BS drama in their life, the ensuing rat problem coming from the apartments and even the occasional bats! I'm sure many more issues could be somewhat traced to the abandoned Stirling Towers, or more probable, the surrounding area in question.

Timeline

1971 - Stirling Towers is built, containing 79 Homeswest family units.

1999 - The three-storey block of 12 units on Stirling Street is built. This is located on the far end of the carpark on the same block.

2013 - April 8: Highgate residents speak out, following a police operation targeting street prostitution in the area. Aside from needles and empty packets constantly found on the side of the road in close proximity to Stirling Towers, the apartments were believed to be the base for 6-10 regular street prostitutes.

2013 - May 23: The Department of Housing advertises a tender for two lifts to be installed and commissioned at Stirling Towers to replace the existing ones onsite.

2014 - June 19: Department of Housing's Project Manager Matt Negus, outlines two options to Town of Vincent councillors. They could retain the apartment complex as 100% public housing or demolish it, redevelop the site and sell 90% of the new apartments as affordable private homes. It comes as "the neighbourhood is currently plagued with drugs, vandalism and squatters using the laundry as a toilet". (Towers to topple).

2015 - November 04: Seven units in the Stirling Towers complex remain tenanted and although they've been offered other accommodation, they refuse to move out.

2015 - December 02: The Department of Housing try to move out the remaining tenants into other suitable accommodation, as a multitude of complains continue to be received about the building, in particular, squatters, drug use and general anti-social behaviour. Reported petty thefts and incidents begin spreading out to surrounding properties and on the streets. Police become heavily involved. The City of Vincent meet with the Department of Housing's maintenance officer, who has recently blocked off the top few apartment levels to make them inaccessible. Although the Department have a long term plan of more than two years, there are no plans to repair the units.

2015 - December 20: Three squatters are evicted from Stirling Towers as a result of police Operation Ahmoseto, which is targeting squatters who reside in empty inner-city buildings in an attempt to tackle a spike in petty crime.

2016 - January 21: The Department of Housing presents concept plans for Stirling Tower's redevelopment at the City of Vincent's design advisory committee meeting. These are subsequently given the approval.

2016 - January 26: The Housing Authority's Commercial Operations General Manager Gary Shaw, states that all windows have now been boarded up and the apartment complex is fenced off. Security has also been increased with the "installation of temporary timber panel fencing," which will remain in place until the complex has been demolished. Only two apartments remain occupied by this stage. City of Vincent chief executive Len Kosova is under the impression no development application has been lodged.

2016 - March 9: Onsite security are now present 24/7 at Stirling Towers.

2016 - March 29: Local artist Mel McVee starts painting the 23-piece fencing panels that border the vacant Stirling Towers. "Native flora and fauna, as well as historic architecture and a map of the Highgate area, will all be included in the mural".

2016 - June 21: The Department of Housing presents further concept plans to the City of Vincent's design advisory committee meeting, which are also approved.

2016 - September 05: The State Government release a tender to demolish Stirling Towers. Other sources say this was advertised in December, although perhaps two sets of demolition tenders were listed.

2016 - September 28: The tender to demolish Stirling Towers closes.

2016 - November: Expressions of interest are called on by the State Government, "for experienced developers to financially participate" with the Housing Authority "and to provide development management services".

 

2017 - March: Stirling Towers is expected to be demolished this month.

2017 - July 24: More than 20 people attend a community art project to help complete a second mural on the site of the three-storey block of 12 units on the Stirling Street side.

2017 - September 21: Department of Communities Acting General Manager of Commercial Operations Nigel Hindmarsh, is present at the Assembly Estimates Committee B. He states that the planning for the refurbishment of Stirling Towers is, "well underway." Public housing will account for at least 25% of the accommodation.

2018 - February: The Housing Authority are in contract negotiation talks with a preferred partner for redeveloping the Stirling Towers complex but the potential partners withdraw from the procurement process.

2018 - March 5: Security Shift Incident Report - 9th floor stairwell door kicked in. Two units on that floor have had someone living in them for the past 3-4 days. 11th floor door has been kicked in. A lot of activity has been happening on this floor. 5th floor door has been left open with fresh graffiti on all the walls of the unit. 2nd and 3rd floor doors have been left unlocked from being kicked open. Door on the bottom floor room near Airing Room has been tampered with since two weeks ago and someone has been sleeping in there.

2018 - March 27: The Department of Fire and Emergency Services staff abseil down the 11-storey apartment complex as part as their rescue training.

2018 - April 07: Security Shift Incident Report - Security do a patrol at 6.55pm around the grounds, when a 43 year old Aboriginal man comes out of a first floor unit, yelling abuse and punching walls. He is talking to someone who that isn't there before turning on the security officer with threats. The officer backs away and calls the police, who quickly attend to remove him.

2018 - April 22: Security Shift Incident Report - At 2am, someone breaks the fire control room panel button, which triggers the fire alarm. No fire is detected but because security haven't been given a (local?) number to call the fire department, they attend at 2.15am. Firefighters repair the panel and disarm the alarm, leaving at 3am after inspecting the building. A second fire brigade attend the apartments to repair a broken fire panel at 3.30am but it's not clear whether or not it's the same one and if someone has intentionally damaged it again, causing the fire alarm to sound. The fire department leave at 4am. The control room door is still broken and has been that way for six weeks.

2018 - July 21: Stirling Towers has now been vacant for four years, although some sources say it was vacated in 2016, possibly as a result of the seven or so tenants who refused to move out.

2018 - August 12: Security Shift Incident Report - Upon arriving at 6pm, security walk into the courtyard and notice bags, clothes and other items that weren't there the previous day. They suspect trespassers are onsite and immediately request that they come out. A male and female emerge from a unit on the third floor, both appearing to be intoxicated. They become verbally aggressive when asked to leave but after security explains why they're being removed, they comply and are escorted out of the complex without any further issues.

2018 - August 13: Security Shift Incident Report - Security arrive at 6pm to find two fire trucks parked up at the front. The fire alarms have been triggered. Once security open up the main gate to allow them access, the firefighters check the fire panel on the ground floor and notice the alarm has been triggered in a storage room located on the ground floor. The door is locked and there's no key for it, so the firefighters force it open. They later come to the conclusion that the fire alarms are faulty.

 

2018 - September 04-07: The WA Police run a forensic training exercise in the rear three-storey block of 12 units on the Stirling Street side.

2018 - September 25: Security Shift Incident Report - Security attend the site at 6pm to find a man in unit 43 on the fourth floor. He is escorted out after being questioned on how he had entered, which had been through a broken window on a blocked off stairwell.

2019 - June: The Department of Communities intend to lodge a development application with the City of Vincent. Demolition and construction won't be set until planning has been approved by the council.

2021 - October: The Housing Authority secure the gate and board up all of Stirling Towers. Four onsite Site Sentry cameras monitor the site 24/7, replacing the security guard.

2022 - February 18: The State Government want to partner up with a community housing agency to develop the site into a build-to-rent development. This is when a developer designs and constructs an apartment complex, retains ownership of the building when it's completed but then rent out the units to tenants whilst managing and maintaining the complex.

2022 - February 20: A young woman walking her dogs along Smith Street sees two men wearing balaclavas, passing things over the fence to each other from Stirling Towers into their ute. The Site Sentry alarms are sounding but it doesn't faze them. A neighbour also witnesses this incident at 5.30am when the alarms wake him up. When he goes outside to see what's going on, he sees the two balaclava-clad men passing black fencing panels over the fence to each other. When he asks them what they're doing, one of them responds with "Getting new gates, mate!" The neighbour films the incident, noting the fencing panels in the back of the ute, although their number plates have been removed from the vehicle.

2022 - February 24: The new plan is to outsource construction and rental management to a community housing provider for a period of up to 49 years, with WA Labor's housing minister John Carey, publicly committing himself to ensure the latest plan goes ahead.

2022 - March: The Housing Authority intend to release an invitation for Expression of Interest to redevelop the Stirling Towers site on TendersWA.

2022 - April 22: The State Government opens Expression of Interest on TendersWA to transform Stirling Towers into a "contemporary build-to-rent development with ongoing tenancy and property management". The site would be made available under a Ground Lease term, which is usually a leasing arrangement typically granted by a government authority to a developer who will lease the vacant land for development.

2022 - August 12: Consortiums led by Community Housing Ltd, Housing Choices Western Australia and Foundation Housing Ltd have all been shortlisted for the State Government's build-to-rent redevelopment. Plans are expected to consist of approximately 100 new rental dwellings with 30% comprising of public housing.

01 - March 2021

02 - April 2021

03 - April 2021