Property development was the last thing on Jan Lindrum's mind when she first drove into Wollongong 18 months ago.
In town to size up the University of Wollongong as a place to complete her doctorate, Ms Lindrum admitted she was side-tracked by a "light bulb moment" when she first laid eyes on the former Quattro site on Flinders Street.
"I pulled over in my car, looked at the site and thought 'wow, what's happening here?' " she told the Mercury yesterday.
"I immediately thought 'this needs to be a beautiful development - it's a gateway to the city'."
Fast forward one and a half years and Ms Lindrum, together with four Malaysian businessmen, has signed up to turn that thought into a reality.
The five directors of Gateway Wollongong yesterday exchanged contracts with Wollongong City Council. This gives them the option of buying the site within three years, providing the council backs a master plan and development application for the property.
Ms Lindrum, who now lives in Wollongong, said she hoped the development would "energise the whole city".
"I moved to Wollongong 18 months ago to complete my doctorate and I've fallen in love with the city and with the people," she said.
"Wollongong really deserves to have an exceptional development on this site."
Residents will get the opportunity to comment on the draft master plan, expected out mid-next year.
Ms Lindrum encouraged people to speak up during the process. "This is a project that needs to be right," she said.