Wollongong councillors have urged shopping centre developer GPT to include free parking in its new $200 million mall, in an effort to give the city an edge over other Illawarra retail hubs.
Deputy Lord Mayor Chris Connor raised the issue at Monday night’s council meeting, saying residents in Wollongong’s southernmost ward - which he represents - had the option to shop in Shellharbour instead of driving north to the city centre.
‘‘There are over 42,000 voters in ward three and they have the opportunity to turn their cars south, instead of north to do their shopping,’’ Cr Connor said.
‘‘I want to really put the case to our friends from GPT that they look seriously at free timed parking, for a period of time, to regenerate and stimulate people’s interest into coming back in to the CBD.’’
‘‘We are going to have that world class new centre, but I see and talk to lots of people for who that extra money for parking is a put off for coming into the centre of our city.’’
‘‘Large retail developments, in goodwill for our community, should be looking at ways to encourage people to come in and compete with their big competitor down south.’’
Councillor Bede Crasnich congratulated Cr Connor on raising the issue of parking, noting he thought ‘‘Wollongong is better than Shellharbour, and we should have better opportunities’’.
He was not the only councillor to take a dig at the southern town, as both Ann Martin and David Brown disparaged Shellharbour’s shopping opportunities.
‘‘I took the kids there,’’ Cr Martin said.
‘‘And I thought I was in Parramatta, because there wasn’t anything that told me I was in Shellharbour.
‘‘The thing I liked the most was the wind vanes mainly because it meant I could find my car because there was no point of reference because it’s all inside.
Cr Brown was even more harsh.
‘‘Mention has been made of another shopping centre further to the south of here and who can resist in politics - when you see a head kick it,’’ he said.
‘‘I found the place a soulless, airless, noisy, claustrophobic dungeon and if GPT set up something like that I’m leaving town.’’
Councillors raised these views during a debate over the temporary closure of Keira Street between Crown and Market streets, to allow GPT to expedite the construction of footpaths and shopfronts associated with the new mall.
The three month shut-down was welcomed by all councillors, with Greens councillor George Takacs saying it would help make an ‘‘enormous difference’’ to the city centre.
‘‘It’s going to be just a beautiful place to eat and to shop and to be in, it’s going to be great and having this road closure to bring about the rapid conclusion of this work is a very good measure,’’ he said.
The closure, to be in place from July to September, was supported unanimously.