Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery celebrated the opening of the Oxford on Crown development by proclaiming it was proof that he and other city councillors had “turned the city around”.
Developer Robert Huang was toasted on Friday at a ceremony to open his $38 million, 14-storey, apartment and commercial building on one of Wollongong’s most prominent sites.
Cr Bradbery said the 4000 sq m of commercial space, plus 135 apartments, would draw people into the city.
“What you’ve created here is something remarkable in terms of injecting energy and vitality into our city,” he told Mr Huang. “In some respects I think it is a beautiful building; a building which architecturally is very attractive.”
But for Cr Bradbery it was more than that – it was hope, and deliverance, for Wollongong’s surplus of major sites left derelict for years after developers went bust.
“If nothing else, in our time here at council, Cr Martin, my other councillors, we have certainly turned this city around,” Cr Bradbery said.
“Not only is this space [here] with this wonderful building … but what we call the old Dwyers site (across Corrimal St) is underway, and then the Flinders St site will soon be underway as well.”
Wollongong City Council also had Cr Ann Martin, general manager David Farmer, and planning chief Andrew Carfield at the ceremony.
A development application has been submitted for the Flinders St site which would be called Parq.
Building Oxford on Crown is not finished but it’s almost there, and guests were shown to the penthouse to take in the view. As is the developer’s prerogative, Mr Huang is keeping the penthouse for himself.
With council mergers clouding the council’s future, Cr Bradbery joked that he had given up his vista.
“My office is on the tenth floor and you have blocked my view to the north,” he said. “The next lord mayor, if there is one, will have to suffer the consequences [but] I would rather do that in the interests of our city.”
Building on the site, formerly the Oxford Tavern, stretched back to the 1830s and required an archaeological dig to discover construction by convicts.
Belmorgan company Wollongong City Plaza had planned the controversial $160 million Gravity development across the Oxford and Dwyers sites. But the company went into receivership in December 2008 and was wound up. The sites were then neglected for years.
The team of Mr Huang, Oxford Constructions building manager Anthony Moran, and architect Tony Jreige are now moving on to another long-stalled development site at 373 Crown St.