The biggest overhaul of Wollongong's city centre in 20 years is slated to begin in August despite the fact the development is still awaiting approval.
The GPT Group said yesterday it hoped to see bulldozers move in within months to start work on the $300 million expansion of Wollongong Central.
Up to 20 shop fronts along the west side of Keira St and on Crown Lane will be demolished to build the new six-level shopping centre.
Many of the shops along the strip have been vacated already and others will quit their premises within the next few weeks.
GPT was reluctant to discuss its construction plans because the development was still being assessed by State Planning Minister Frank Sartor.
A spokeswoman said it had secured properties on the site but the Mercury has learnt the Bing Lee store is still owned by health fund ahm.
Bing Lee could stifle GPT's plans, revealing yesterday that it has a long-term lease and has no plans to move.
Neither ahm nor GPT could be contacted for comment on this matter last night.
GPT plans to expand its Wollongong Central shopping centre to include an eight-screen cinema, food court, supermarket, underground parking and specialty shops. A tunnel and bridge will connect Wollongong Central to the new six-storey complex.
It is the biggest revamp of the CBD since the opening of Crown Gateway in 1986. GPT acquired Crown Central in 1996 and Crown Gateway in 1998, forming Wollongong Central.
A spokeswoman for GPT said pending approval construction of the west Keira site would begin in August and redevelopment of the northern side of Wollongong Central in 2009.
The proposed redevelopment will expand the existing centre from 39,000sqm to 69,000sqm.
In the future, GPT plans to build two towers on the west Keira St site, one a 10-storey commercial block and the other an 18-storey residential complex.
Proposals for the towers are yet to be submitted.
Most lessees the Mercury spoke to yesterday had been given deadlines for when they were to be out of their premises. Some of them had already moved.
However Bing Lee property manager Ben Nursoo said the store's lease did not expire for "a couple of years" and the business had no plans to move.
"We have spoken to the owners of the property," he said.
"My understanding is we have a long-term lease."
Property owner ahm also has its headquarters in the building, but has indicated it will move to new premises on the corner of Regent and Market streets in June, as part of a land exchange deal with GPT.
Skipp Surf occupies the building next door to Bing Lee, which is also owned by ahm. Skipp Surf will move to Crown St within a month.
John Choi of Kuma Sushi said he had not been told when he had to leave and would stay "until I'm told to go".
Other tenants said they had been told to keep from neighbours when their individual deadlines were.
The GPT development is a major rival to Belmorgan Property Group's $350 million Gravity retail centre proposed for the former Dwyers site in east Wollongong.
It was delayed in 2006 when GPT successfully appealed in court against Wollongong City Council's development consent for stage one.
Despite the court action, Belmorgan began demolition work on the site after having a separate application approved by the council.