Hospitality hub: The streetscape looking south along Keira Street, Wollongong. The precinct plan aims to promote social night-time activity along the street.
An upgraded Keira Street with wide footpaths and alfresco dining will pave the way for a ‘‘seamless’’ work-life balance and give Wollongong a more cosmopolitan feel, according to a leading city businessman.
Last night, Wollongong City Councillors voted to adopt the Keira Street Precinct Plan, allowing the completion of construction designs aimed at turning the site into a ‘‘High Street’’ with a focus on social night-time activity.
The council first endorsed the concept plan in December last year, and an adopted plan will now be made publicly available.
Regional Development Australia Illawarra chairman Eddy De Gabriele said the plan brought Wollongong ‘‘in line with what’s happening in major capital cities’’ where there was a ‘‘hub of hospitality, entertainment and connection’’ with communities in the inner city outside work hours.
‘‘Europeans have that where the work day and nightlife seem to be seamless – people stay out longer,’’ Mr De Gabriele said.
The council’s plan includes a proposal to divert traffic away from the inner city along a bypass from Flinders Street to Crown Street using Throsby Drive and Denison Street.
The development would be implemented in two stages, from Burelli to Market Street and from Market to Smith Street.
Mr De Gabriele said as cities modernised, it was important they became more pedestrian friendly.
‘‘You go to old modern cities like Rome where it’s mainly geared towards human movement,’’ he said.
‘‘There is a high emphasis on human contact ...lots of people congregating in small areas, not competing with vehicles.
‘‘It is the right strategy going forward for a modern city.’’
But Illawarra Business Chamber chief executive officer Debra Murphy said it was important for council to get the balance right between vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
‘‘It is important that the council...[balance] the needs of pedestrians, public and private transport and businesses throughout the city,’’ she said.
‘‘Given this difficult balance, any plans to change the traffic and access management will require some consultation.’’
Yesterday, most Mercury online readers reacted positively to a preview of the plan, with some suggesting the upgrade should be broadened to include other parts of the inner city.
Mr De Gabriele said because Wollongong was a regional centre, there was an opportunity for the council to be more ‘‘dynamic and innovative’’ and said getting things wrong the first time was ‘‘OK’’.
‘‘It’s a question of what works, that’s the key issue,’’ he said.
Building the Crown to Market Street segment is subject to negotiations between Wollongong Council and GPT, and the second segment is included on the council’s capital works program.