Wollongong GPT development moving ahead

Progress on the western end of Crown Street Mall and the new GPT development continues to move ahead. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Progress on the western end of Crown Street Mall and the new GPT development continues to move ahead. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Three weeks after the temporary closure of Keira Street, work has ramped up in Wollongong's CBD with the mall refurbishment and GPT's West Keira development visibly taking shape.

Walking up the closed section of road at twilight, the tall concrete structures of GPT's $200-million building now have twinkling lights peeking out of holes in the facade, giving an indication of what the city centre might be like when the new mall opens in a few months.

Amid high fences, orange construction barriers and the huge hole in the middle of the road, the beginnings of the building's architectural centrepiece - crafted from blades designed by BlueScope Steel - are arching over the intersection of Keira and Crown streets.

At the mouth of the mall, Wollongong City Council has installed new lights and started placing lighting fixtures atop their trunk-like poles that mimic the controversial spotted gums.

Paving works are also forging ahead, according to the council, with a suspended slab poured in front of David Jones on Thursday, and paving due to start at the end of next week.

Another slab will be poured on Saturday near the Church Street intersection and piling works will start in the area next week.

Progress on the western end of Crown Street Mall and the new GPT development continues to move ahead. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Progress on the western end of Crown Street Mall and the new GPT development continues to move ahead. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Despite work charging ahead, times are still tough at the lower end of the mall, which is, for the most part, an empty wind tunnel with an increasing number of closed doors running down either side.

Lower Crown Street retailer, Northside Runners owner Karl Hayes said it was little comfort that the halfway point of the council's works outside his shop had now passed. He said he had noticed paving works coming along faster than in previous months but that didn't stop retailers from feeling strained.

"It still doesn't take away from the fact that we've had February to October where the CBD has been shut down and people are avoiding it like the plague," he said.

"Everyone is livid, it's just debilitating - we want it over."

According to the council, the paving in the centre of the lower end of the mall will start in August, and trees for that area are due to arrive on site shortly.

GPT's new building - including the works along Keira Street - is due to open in late September, while the mall refurbishment is on track to be complete a month later at the end of October.

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