Retail giants oppose ‘sterile’ Crown St Mall plans

Fairy Meadow resident Stephen Kuper, pictured in Crown St Mall, is founder of a 260-member cyber group called Re-open Wollongong Mall. Picture: KEN ROBERTSON An artist’s impression of how Crown St Mall would look following the proposed $14 million facelift. Designs prepared by the NSW Government Architects Office.
Nanjing Night Net

Retail big guns have condemned plans to revitalise Crown St Mall as “sterile” and “disappointing”, declaring the troubled precinct should be reopened to traffic.The ongoing battle casts a pall on Wollongong City Council’s push to revitalise the mall and prompts questions over whether its plan can bring the precinct back to life.The council had been calling for public feedback on its $14.2 million, five-year makeover of the mall designed by the NSW Government Architect’s Office, which included the removal of the birdcage and other obstacles to improve pedestrian access and draw customers. EDITORIAL: David Jones should not be ignored VOTE IN POLL: Are the plans to revitalise Crown St Mall too sterile?The plan ruled out the notion of reopening the mall to traffic, after the council declared the concept did not have broad community support.But major retailers, including department store giant David Jones, have panned the proposal.The scathing verdict comes just a week after the store announced a $6 million refurbishment, the first significant changes to the store in more than a decade.David Jones retail development general manager Antony Karp issued a call for a reopening of the eastern end of the mall between Church and Kembla streets.”Not only will the opening of the mall inject life and activity into the area during the day and night, but it will increase security, traffic flow and use of restaurants and cafes,” he said.Mr Karp said in terms of the council’s plan, David Jones “strongly believes (it) is unsuitable for the long-term benefit of the mall, its retailers and the Wollongong community”.He described the concept as “clinical and sterile, rather than inviting and shopper friendly”.David Jones’ call for traffic to be restored was echoed by the GPT Group, owner of Wollongong Central shopping centre.Wollongong City Centre general manager Paul Fanning claimed the proposal was a cheap option “which certainly will not give one of Australia’s largest regional cities a world-class pedestrian precinct it deserves”.He called on the council to improve the plans by running a nationwide design competition.The Property Council of Australia summed up retailers’ concerns, describing the concept plan as “boring”, and accusing the council of failing to consult shopkeepers.The Wollongong Produce and Creative Traders Market offered a lone positive voice from retailers, commending the “fluid and functional space”.A council spokeswoman said it was listening to the community’s feedback and architects would consider ways to add colour and character.She said the council carried out extensive consultation with residents and business owners in 2008 which found more than 70 per cent wanted to keep the mall closed to traffic.The council will use the public feedback to create more detailed designs as part of the development application process. Work is expected to begin early next year.

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