A European-style piazza, trendy restaurants and an arthouse cinema could form part of redevelopment plans for the former Quattro site on Flinders Street.
Gateway Wollongong director Jan Lindrum yesterday revealed her company was considering several preliminary concepts to transform the 9000-square-metre block on Wollongong's CBD fringe into an "iconic landmark" that would "put [Wollongong] on the international map".
"It's early days yet but there are definitely ideas; a wonderful piazza, lots of greenery, restaurants, and possibly an arthouse cinema," she said.
"They are only ideas at the moment ... no firm sketches have been done yet, but we'd like it to be a place where people meet, exchange ideas and socialise.
"A [London's] Covent Garden-type atmosphere is what we'd like to create."
Ms Lindrum also hinted at a possible University of Wollongong presence on the site, saying she had held preliminary discussions with university staff about establishing apartment-style accommodation for doctoral students and visiting professors.
Wollongong City Council agreed in August to sell the site to the consortium, comprising Ms Lindrum and four Malaysian investors, on the condition they develop a masterplan for the site and the council has input into what was built on the land.
Both parties met in Wollongong yesterday to sign a lengthy contract kick-starting the process.
Under the terms of the agreement, Gateway Wollongong will be able to buy the property only after the council has signed off on the masterplan and the development application, which could take up to three years.
Ms Lindrum said her team hoped to have a draft masterplan to present to the community by mid-2013.
The council has not released details of the agreed sale price, although Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery yesterday confirmed the council would not lose out in the transaction.
Councillor Bradbery said the council would work closely with Gateway Wollongong to ensure the development reflected its "gateway" position.
"This is an iconic site; we don't want just anything to happen there," he said.
"This is a vital part of the city, and the entrance to the city, and we want it to really look good."
The council bought the property for $5.2 million in November last year, called for expressions of interest to develop the site in April and announced Gateway Wollongong as the preferred buyer in August.
The site, bordering Flinders, Campbell and Keira streets, featured prominently in the 2008 Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into Wollongong City Council.
The commission found developer Frank Vellar had engaged in corrupt conduct by engineering the approval of his development with his lover, council planner Beth Morgan.