From a hodgepodge of fluoro yellow paint and loud bargain basement signs to a neat, understated high street - Wollongong City Council has revealed what Crown Street could look like under its new facade-rejuvenation program.
The scheme, which will provide property owners with a dollar-for-dollar council contribution of up to $20,000 to paint or upgrade their shopfronts, was supported by a majority of councillors at last week's meeting.
Councillors Janice Kershaw, Vicki Curran and Greg Petty voted against the program, amid concerns that other suburbs were being ignored in favour of investment in the CBD.
Council staff have now released an artist's impression of what the dilapidated strip of shops along upper Crown Street could look like if all business owners chose to apply for the funding.
According to the projected image, the now mismatched signs in bright blue, yellow and red would become uniform black and white banners, while peeling and damaged buildings would benefit from a lick of paint in council-approved colours like cream, beige and grey.
Mark Jones from Edmiston Jones Architects in Wollongong has thrown his support behind the idea because he said it could help reduce vandalism and give shopkeepers pride in their businesses.
He said the "broken windows theory", which states that keeping urban environments in a good condition may prevent more serious crime, could apply to the rundown shopping strip.
"Where the windows are left deteriorated, the tendency is for more windows to be broken, leading to vandalism and graffiti," he said.
"Our urban landscape does send signals that encourage behaviour, good or bad."
Mr Jones said the program would also help to reclaim the original charm of Crown Street's numerous heritage buildings.
"There's a lot that's already there, but it's washed over in one colour of paint or with paint that is peeling," he said.
"Part of this program will be revealing what is already there, because there's a lot of richness that is lost behind add-on structures and poor signage that has covered up the buildings."
However, Mr Jones warned the facade upgrade was just the first step in breathing life into the CBD and said more needed to be done to encourage businesses to fill the many vacant shopfronts.
In the coming weeks, the council would contact eligible business owners and operators about the facade program, and those who expressed interest would receive an individual action plan, outlining the recommended work for their property.
Development applications may be required for large restorations, but the council believes most of the work will not require development consent, and applicants seeking to upgrade heritage buildings will be required to work with the council's heritage officer.
About 140 businesses along Crown Street between Corrimal Street and Railway Parade, as well as those in Globe Lane, will be eligible to receive the funding.
The scheme will cost $600,000 over two years.