For 36 years, Wollongong's tallest building has been a 1980s apartment block in North Wollongong.
Finished in 1983, the Creston stands on the highest rise of Corrimal Street and remains the city's tallest completed building.
At 49 metres, the cream-coloured building just pips the Oxford on Crown, at the old tavern site, and Harbour Apartments, opposite the entertainment centre. But now the skyline is undergoing a major transformation.
Looking down from Mount Keira or up from Crown Street Mall, standing at the city's most easterly point near the beach or approaching from the west near the hospital, large black scaffolding-wrapped rectangles dominate the view.
Sometime next year, the tallest building will stand at 75 metres - 53 per cent higher than the Creston - perched on the highest hill in the CBD
Named "Signature," the tower on Regent Street will have 21 storeys, with residents living in 150 units.
Across the road "Avante" on Rawson Street will be 18 storeys tall, while on Railway Street "Skye Wollongong" will rise 19 storeys (though developers are seeking permission to add two storeys).
By themselves, these three buildings will place hundreds of new residents in the centre of the CBD. And there's plenty more construction underway or in the pipeline.
In October, a record number of cranes in the sky meant the Wollongong, for the first time, was included on the national cranes index used to gauge growth in major cities around the country.
Additionally, Wollongong recently joined forces with Newcastle and Geelong, in a bid to draw attention to the role these "gateway cities" play in linking metropolitan Australia with the regions.
Last week, the three cities released their "Gateway to Growth" report, which highlights how Wollongong's CBD has been boosted by $1.5 billion in investment in recent years, with $400 million more in the pipeline.
Deputy Mayor Tania Brown, who helped compile the gateway report, said she believed the changing skyline was a positive sign for Wollongong as it seeks to raise its profile nationally.
"I think it's time we grew up," she said. "We say we're a city, but we haven't necessarily looked like one, so I think this is a good thing. Now we just have to keep making sure these buildings are in the right spots."
Likewise, Illawarra Business Chamber director Adam Zarth said the cranes in the sky are sign of growth, but pointed out that what's happening on the ground is most important.
In an opinion piece for the Mercury last week, Mr Zarth called for the council to "consolidate" its commercial centre, and stop requiring high-rise buildings to make space for new shops and eateries except for in the very centre of town.
"We need to consolidate the 'commercial core' of Wollongong to a few square blocks - and we should start by creating a definition of what this should be. I suggest this could be the area bounded by Burelli, Harbour, Market and Regent streets," he said.
"To achieve this, council should remove its requirement that all new residential developments include ground floor commercial space.
"When these occur outside the 'commercial core' it dilutes the CBD and draws retail, food offerings and other consumer services outside of town, requiring customers to drive or walk long distances."
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery agreed that city growth was a delicate balance between boosting population to help the retail and entertainment sectors, and maintaining Wollongong's coastal feel.
"There are many people talking about vacant shops and so on at the moment, so these towers can contribute to the sustainability of the retail sector, and also the cultural expectations of a city like ours," he said.
"Unless we have the numbers in population density you can't sustain these sorts of things, the restaurants, cafe culture and entertainment."
We need to be careful not to destroy that which we treasure and the thing that attracts people to our city, but at the same time, we've got to manage the population increase.Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery
As well as shifting the skyline, the towers and their residents will inevitably have an affect on the way the council governs, Cr Bradbery said.
"Ultimately these people are voters, and ratepayers, so the increased population would mean the CBD has extra clout," he said.
"It will put pressure on the council and governments, in terms of supplying appropriate standards of public space, recreation and so on."
He said the council was slowly buying up properties around MacCabe Park and planned to transform it into a "central park" for the CBD.
"We are also protecting and activating the foreshore, and looking at the Beaton Park master plan... because all these things add to the livability of the city," he said.
But not everyone has been happy about the dominant new skyline.
For years, residents in Wollongong's Neighbourhood Forum 5 community group have warned about the need to protect the views looking back from Flagstaff Hill towards the escarpment as the city grows.
At their November meeting, forum members once again voted to let the council know about their "concern at the excessive height limits permitted in and around the city centre, particularly in the vicinity of heritage precincts".
They also agreed to ask that the council "expedites" its review of height controls in the upcoming consideration of the Local Environmental Plan (LEP).
Cr Bradbery said he was also concerned that the city could lose the "sight lines from the escarpment through to the beach, and vice versa".
"The issue is that those buildings were approved under the old LEP 2009, and personally, that's what I inherited and there's not much I can do about it," he said.
"But we are now fast approaching revisiting that, and the CBD will be the first area we look at."
The council is due to begin reviewing the LEP, its most important planning document, next year.
"Those visual corridors are really important and that will be part of revising the LEP to make sure we preserve the distinct features of what makes Wollongong, Wollongong," Cr Bradbery said.
"We need to be careful not to destroy that which we treasure and the thing that attracts people to our city, but at the same time, we've got to manage the population increase."