After more than two years of intensive construction in Wollongong’s city centre, a clear picture of how GPT’s $200 million shopping centre expansion will look when complete has started to emerge.
Beneath blue mesh and scaffolding, the outline of the Keira Street building’s soaring design has become visible and, along Crown Lane, part of the decorative concrete facade has recently been installed.
On Wednesday, the developer opened the doors of its West Keira project to the media for the first time in months, allowing the Mercury to see the site beyond the street view.
Where there was once a gaping, rubble-filled hole there is now a concrete cavern, full of various grey-toned allotments waiting to be fitted-out as restaurants, supermarkets, car parks and food courts ahead of the planned September opening.
The sneak peek was GPT’s chance to announce - as promised in March 2012 - that all but two steel elements used in construction have been made with locally produced materials, thanks to a close affiliation with BlueScope Steel.
GPT’s development manager Steven Turner said there were about 14 different applications of BlueScope products, including 200 tonnes of beams, 30,000 square metres of a steel decking product called Deckform and 900 square metres of steel sheeting for windows frames and sills.
‘‘We set ourselves an aspiration that if it could be BlueScope Steel, it would be [because] we wanted to create a project to showcase what the region does and does very well,’’ he said.
BlueScope product innovation and technology manager Sean Wong said his company was grateful for the chance to work on an Illawarra-based project, noting steel would take pride of place on the mall’s facade made from 750 steel blades.
‘‘For many people who work at Port Kembla Steelworks, it’s rare to see the application of the steel they make in such an iconic project so close to home,’’ Mr Wong said.
Mr Turner said shunning overseas products to work with BlueScope was not only designed to create goodwill in the community, it was also a sound business move which he hoped would be repeated by Australian developers in the future.
‘‘We were able to buy this steel at the same price as we could buy overseas steel, but there’s always some cost implications when people start working on it because Australian labour can be quite expensive,’’ he said.
‘‘However, there’s also a trade off to know that it’s being fabricated just down the road.
‘‘It made a lot of sense for us to start the process here in Wollongong, but now we’re starting to see the same type of partnerships could be used in other places.’’
Steel applications include:
200 tonnes of steel beams
30,000 square metres of structural steel decking
900 square metres of steel sheeting for external skirting, window sills and frames
Two kilometres of steel blades which will form the centre’s facade
■ Right now there are 300 workers on site, but this will increase to about 500 as construction ramps up in the coming months.
■ Once shops begin to be fitted out, an extra 500 workers will start work.
■ Once completed, the shops and restaurants will provide about 800 full-time equivalent jobs.
HOW THE CENTRE WILL WORK
Second floor and rooftop: Two levels of parking, with about 400 spaces, to be accessed via Regent Street. The parking levels will have ‘‘live digital data’’, showing how many car spaces are available and directing customers to free spaces.
First floor: 600-seat, partially open-air food court with three distinct areas.
Ground floor: Will open out to Keira Street and includes bars, restaurants and other retailers, including Target and JB Hi-Fi.
Lower ground level: Fresh food outlets including Coles, Liquorland, Best Fresh and other food retailers which will link to existing Wollongong Central stores via a tunnel under Keira Street. The high ceiling will be decorated with more than 5000 kitchen colanders.
Lowest floor: 250 car spaces accessed via Market Street. Parking in the centre will be free on Sunday and after 6pm every day except Thursday.