Almost $1 million could soon be spent on sprucing up rundown buildings in Wollongong’s CBD, under the council’s facade rejuvenation scheme.
Owners of 27 properties along Crown Street are in line to benefit from $300,000 of Wollongong City Council funding, to be handed out in grants of up to $20,000 and used to cover half the cost of a shopfront makeover.
In turn, business owners have committed to spend more than $650,000 of their own funds to improve the look of signage, paint work, awnings and security grills.
A council spokesman said this was a 221 per cent return on investment, amounting to $953,000 in total.
According to economic modelling, which considers direct and indirect flow-on effects including the use of local contractors, the council says the program could generate $2.1 million of economic activity in the city.
Of the applications set to receive funding, 11 are for heritage-listed sites and 14 are for properties in the notoriously scruffy western end of Crown Street.
Some of the businesses that could benefit from the scheme include the brightly painted Chemist Warehouse at 261 Crown Street and the IMB building at 253 Crown Street.
In the mall and along east Crown Street, the properties housing the Aussie Disposals store, the Downtown Chemist and M and Michael Footwear, as well as the state heritage listed property from which Lee and Me cafe operates, are slated for funding.
Since it was first floated in July, the facade rejuvenation scheme has drawn criticism from some Mercury readers, who said the council should not be using ratepayers’ money to help private businesses.
However, a number of architects, real estate agents and the Illawarra branch of the Property Council have praised the program for its ability to improve Wollongong CBD’s image and attract tourists and shoppers.
In July, councillors voted to spend $600,000 over two years on the scheme, however the contentious citizens panel recommended the second round not go ahead next year.
Councillors will decide on the remaining funding in February.