Illawarra retail reborn
The well overdue upgrade has breathed new life into the local community, with the introduction of more than 80 new retailers, anchored by Coles, and Wollongong’s first Target store.
The project added 16,000sqm of retail space, for a total of more than 59,000sqm, and grew the number of stores by 80 to 220. An additional 650 new car spaces were added, bringing the total for the centre to more than 2000.
Over the space of two years, a timelapse video was created, where a camera mounted on the existing building took a photo every half hour, documenting the expansion site.
Steve Turner, development manager for GPT, says cooperation from the local community, project partners, and Wollongong City Council has been instrumental in GPT’s ability to complete the project.
“The expansion of Wollongong Central, coupled with the revitalisation of Keira St, Globe Ln, and Crown St, has completely transformed the Wollongong CBD into a refreshed and well connected social hub, incorporating a range of easily accessible public spaces and injecting more life into the city throughout the day and night,” said Turner.
“We’re also seeing the benefit of things happening on the fringe of our centre, where council has launched a facade upgrade program to help small businesses improve their level of presentation,” he said.
Council has invested $21 million in the upgrade of Crown St Mall and invested millions more into upgrading three blocks of Keira St, the street Wollongong Central fronts.
Footpaths along these three blocks have been expanded to create a new outdoor dining precinct, creating a vibrant social hub, with food outlets expected to trade into the night. These include Yogurberry, Coco Cubano, and Guzman Y Gomez, which will offer outdoor seating for 120, and an experience that was previously not available in the CBD.
A core focus of the project was to ensure the story of the Illawarra was expressed through the buildings architecture. Lead architect, Susanne Pini, a Wollongong native, was tasked with the design, and was able to express elements of the local escarpment, references to the local steel industry, and shapes of the Illawarra Flame Tree, which come alive with LED lights at night to create a glow over outdoor diners.
The internal design aims to be authentic to Wollongong, with materials predominantly timber, metal, and brick. Many of the bricks used were recycled, some of which from the Melbourne Olympic Stadium.
The centre is flooded with natural light, where shadows bounce off a timber screen creating waves of light. Large windows line the food court area, opening to fill the space with natural sea breeze, and lines of booths are built into the structure allowing the option for private dining.
Featured artwork by Maria Fernanda Cardoso cuts through the middle of the new look Wollongong Central, boasting thousands of nylon rods sprouting from the wall, giving the illusion of moving water in homage to the centre’s coastal location.
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