Last-ditch effort to save mall birdcage

Last-minute attempts to save Crown Street Mall's steel arches failed this week with a tender awarded to demolish the 30-year-old "birdcage".

On Monday night Keiraville academic and activist Keith Tognetti pleaded with Wollongong City Council to postpone the demolition of the arches until people had the opportunity to think about the consequences and investigate alternatives.

Dr Tognetti suggested the arches could be used for a hanging garden, an idea inspired by his recent visit to Singapore, where the hanging gardens were attracting tourists to the value of $100 million per year.

The idea did have some support among the councillors, with Cr Greg Petty going as far as to recommend that the council advertise an expression of interest for the design and construction of a hanging garden, with illumination, making use of the steel birdcage structure.

He suggested a budget of $250,000 could come from the $500,000 put aside for public art that would be incorporated into the Crown Street Mall upgrade.

Cr Vicki Curran and Cr George Takacs backed Cr Petty's motion.

However, the majority of the council voted to proceed with the demolition, awarding the tender to Mann Group (NSW) Demolition Discretionary Trust for $173,900.

Cr David Brown said the reality was the birdcage was "a dead duck", a decision had been made and the council was on the brink of starting work on the redevelopment of the mall.

"There is no late silver bullet," he said.

Cr Takacs said Dr Tognetti's submission was "unfortunate timing", but said it did raise issues about the appearance of the mall above street level, with the removal of the structure to expose car parks.

Cr Takacs suggested that the developers "look at something like a vertical garden".

"It is unfortunate we can't do more.

"The plans are in place and hard to turn around to make any significant changes.

"Unfortunately we are running with an agenda set in place by administrators ... we should probably have paused a year ago to see if we could get a better result."

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