Giving shops in the Wollongong CBD a council-funded facelift could help the city avoid a "downward spiral", MMJ director Michael Croghan said yesterday.
Last month, Wollongong City Council put on public exhibition a plan that would allow 138 businesses along Crown Street to receive money from the council to upgrade their facades.
Under the policy, the council would make a dollar-for-dollar contribution up to $20,000 to undertake such works as repainting buildings and windows or getting rid of roller shutters or grills.
"The concept behind this has already been put into practice by a number of other councils including the City of Sydney," Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said at the launch of the draft policy.
The total amount proposed to be allocated is $300,000 a year for two years and submissions on the proposal end today.
Mr Croghan said the project would pose obvious advantages to building owners and tenants, but they would not be the only ones to benefit.
"The other winner is the city," Mr Croghan said.
"Wollongong city centre is competing as a destination very, very heavily with other offers. That means Shellharbour city centre and Stockland Shellharbour for one example.
"We're in a very competitive market and if you do not present well and offer something you fall behind and it's just a downward spiral."
Mr Croghan, who is head of commercial leasing at MMJ Wollongong, said the real estate company managed several properties in the CBD whose owners would be keen to take part in the scheme, should council endorse it.
Mr Croghan said it would help draw people back into the city.
"It's like trying to sell a car and someone turns up on your doorstep to look at the car and it's dirty, or scratched," he said.
"Straight away they've got an image, and that shapes their perception.
"If we don't present our city centre - which is our centre for the region - well, that perception is very hard to shake."
The Illawarra chapter of the Property Council of Australia also supported the draft policy.
"We know there are business owners in Wollongong who are keen to invest in their building should this financial incentive be introduced," policy adviser Amanda Kunkler said.
"Some of them own key iconic sites in the CBD so this is a great initiative to improve the appearance of this city and upgrade the value of these building assets."