A fun and quirky vibe was crucial to revitalising Wollongong's city centre, an expert in "placemaking" told a Property Council Illawarra lunch yesterday.
"We overplan and oversanitise our public places so that we can't do anything fun," Melbourne-based Gilbert Rochecouste said.
"We need to be very bold in Wollongong and push boundaries."
Mr Rochecouste, chairman of Village Well consultancy, said placemaking was a multi-faceted approach designed to create vibrant and enjoyable public spaces.
Mr Rochecouste told the gathering that Wollongong needed to challenge what was normal for a city centre.
On the subject of quirky, he cited examples of parking meters bent at 90-degree angles or buildings with vertical guttering on walls that "sang" when it rained.
"Fun and pleasure are the greatest human motivators," he said.
Mr Rochecouste also identified food and after-hours activities as important to the revitalisation of the city.
"Night-time activities are critical," he said.
"If you don't create night-time activities, you create a sense of closure [in the CBD]. If you get the food right in the city, you get half the city right.
"I'm a big fan of getting the DNA of food happening."
During a panel discussion involving Mr Rochecouste, David Fuller, the director of strategic projects at the University of Wollongong, said the city needed to embrace different things.
He lamented the fact that the city had already lost a number of CBD businesses, including the small bar and exhibition space Art Bar, and suggested red tape should be loosened.
"If we want to transform the city, we have to allow people to try things that wouldn't necessarily try," Mr Fuller said.
"We need to lighten up a little bit and allow some of these things to take place in the city."
Panellist Susanne Pini, an architect from the firm Rice Daubney, is working with GPT on its West Keira development and Globe Lane "reactivation".
She said the approach of GPT was to look beyond just the lot of land it occupied.
"It's all well and good architecturally to build a beautiful building," Ms Pini said.
"The bottom line in making good cities is you have to ask what this building will do for the rest of the city. It needs to be viewed as what is does for the city."
Mr Rochecouste said Wollongong had real potential with its location between the beach and the escarpment, and the quirky potential of Globe Lane.
He said he saw signs the city was on the right track.
"There seems to be some of the dominoes lined up, it really feels that way," Mr Rochecouste said.
These "dominoes" included leadership, infrastructure and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of confidence in the city.
"I think that a city will only become a city when it's ready to become one," he said.