Business groups representative of a broad cross section of interests are calling for Wollongong City Council to undertake an economic analysis to determine the best outcome for the Crown St Mall as part of a wider investigation on revitalising Wollongong’s city heart.
Tourism Wollongong, the Illawarra Business Chamber, the Australian Industry Group and the Property Council of Australia have called on the council’s new leaders to consider the role of Wollongong’s CBD as the regional city, the key location in terms of business development and jobs growth, as well as a great location to enjoy leisure experiences.
They argue that public opinion and past surveys have not provided an economic consideration on the best way to revitalise the city centre, including the role of the Crown St Mall, in the context of creating a great public domain and developing city wide precincts such as retail, office spaces, increased medical facilities, residential options, university accommodation and cultural opportunities like a convention centre.
“Crown St Mall as the heart of the city has the opportunity to be an attractor for both business and leisure, unfortunately it’s currently quite the opposite,” said Tourism Wollongong Chair Matt Davidson.
“We’re currently working on establishing regular events and activities for the city centre which complement the business and retail experiences, but this is only part of the story.”
Property Council Illawarra Chapter Chair David Laing said private sector investment was poised to spend millions in the CBD, creating a ripe opportunity to take action and seek the best outcome for the city centre.
“We’ve always asked who would argue with an outcome which grows a business or develops better and safer public amenity, but to date the discussions seem to be restricted to limited survey results, pavers and trees,” he said.
“Whilst these considerations are important, revitalising a city centre requires a more sophisticated approach including the economic case studies of what has occurred in other locations where city centres have been reinvigorated with an array of measures, including the reactivation of main street scapes.
“Why not seek the best possible result for our region’s heart.”
Illawarra Business Chamber President Les Dion and Australian Industry Group Illawarra and South Coast Regional Manage Leanne Grogan echoed the sentiments, adding that none of the business groups knew the golden answer to the best options for the Crown St Mall – although they all agreed on the need for evidence-based decisions in the context of the role of the CBD.
“This is the opportunity we’ve been seeking for sometime, to capitalise on the private investment but we need to make this decision based on expert advice and the experiences of other locations, keeping in mind the diverse role of our city centre,” Mr Dion said.
“Community sentiment is always an important consideration, but the city centre plays a key role in building business confidence and attracting further investment to our region,” Ms Grogan said.
Mr Laing said some of the members of the business groups had vast experiences of doing business throughout Australia, including locations where closed city centre precincts had been reactivated with great economic and community benefits, including Penrith, Parramatta and more recently Townsville.
Tourism Wollongong, the Illawarra Business Chamber, the Australian Industry Group and the Property Council of Australia are making four recommendations:
Council considers its decisions on the Crown St Mall in the context of its role as the regional city and the central business location for the Illawarra, taking into account the impending private sector investment in the city centre.
Council requests independent expert advice on the revitalisation of the city centre to gain great economic and social benefits, including the review of other Main St/Mall reactivations.
Councillors visit some locations where the city centre has been reactivated with slow-moving traffic and/or maintain some closed public domain space to seek the experiences and outcomes from business and community representatives.
The business groups request to address the councillors and bring independent expertise to discuss the revitalisation of Wollongong in support of reaching the best possible outcome for the city centre, including the Crown St Mall.
Mr David Laing, Chair, Illawarra Chapter, Property Council. Ph: 0419 284 626
Ms Leanne Grogan, Regional Manager, Illawarra & South Coast, Australian Industry Group, Ph: 0418 216 909
Ms Louise Southall, Illawarra Business Chamber, Ph: 0412 636 954
Mr Matt Davidson, Chair - Tourism Wollongong, Ph: 0400 200 139