The Sorrento Plaza site and the surrounding suburb has evolved significantly over the years, changing from virgin dunes and vegetation to an area for residences, shops and other services. The proposed revitalisation of the Plaza site will represent yet another chapter in the evolution of the area.
Prior to colonisation, the area where the site is located and is now known as Sorrento formed part of Mooro country led by influential Whadjuk Noongar man Yellagonga. Local Aboriginal groups foraged and fished for abalone and other sea life in the bountiful ocean reefs nearby. Following European settlement, most of the land north of Perth escaped residential development for almost a century.
An advertisement in the Sunday Times in October 1928 announced a ‘Beach Development’ in ‘the New-Born Sorrento’. The land was owned by Mr. William Padbury who struck an agreement with land development company Wards Limited to subdivide the area and present the new ‘seaside resort’ for private sale in 1929. The name ‘Sorrento’ was likely borrowed from the seaside community of Sorrento, south of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. The original plans for the estate included dirt roads and tracks, parks and playgrounds and bathing sheds on the beaches, some of which can be seen in the first aerial imagery of the area in 1953.
One of the first Europeans to settle in the area was Irish master whaler Patrick Marmion who operated a whaling station in Sorrento in 1849. The whaling station operated for three years and was situated just south of the present-day Sorrento Surf Lifesaving Club (SSLC) site.
Sorrento and the surrounding suburbs of Hillarys and Ocean Reef did not see large-scale residential development until the 1960s, prior to which the area was sparsely populated with beach and fishing shacks. In 1961 the iconic ‘The Dome’ shop was established adjacent to the project site. This was the site of the first SSLC meeting and would go on to operate for 16 years until it was demolished in 1977.
The first commercial building on the site (likely a restaurant / café) was constructed in between 1965 and 1970.
Due to its size and beachside location, the site has hosted a range of hospitality venues as well as mixed-use commercial and residential space. Except for the addition of a few car park areas and other amenities, buildings on the site have remained largely unchanged since the early 1980s. In the late 1980s, ‘Joshua’s Bistro’ operated out of the oldest building on the site, which was renovated to include its recognisable pitched roof.
In 1987, the stunning oceanic landscape around Sorrento was formally recognised with the area becoming home to Western Australia’s first marine park (named Marmion Marine Park).
November 1953. The area is sparsely populated, with rudimentary transport routes, some residential lots, and the occasional beach shack.
March 1965. The impact of residential development is visible in the area, with a range of residential lots having sprung up in the previous decade. The iconic ‘The Dome’ shop is visible north of the project site. The first buildings (likely residential) have appeared just behind the project site.
July 1970. Residential development has continued to occur in the area, and the first commercial building has been constructed on the project site. What is now Geneff Park has been lawned and a tree-border has been planted around it.
June 1985. The first aerial image of the site in colour, which displays the vibrant aqua colour of the ocean. ‘The Dome’ shop north of the project site has been demolished to make way for high-density housing, and the remaining vacant residential blocks in the area have been developed. The project site has expanded to include several more commercial buildings and car parks.
February 2021. The site as it stands in the present day, with a range of hospitality and specialty commercial stores onsite.