The relocation of Warrawong Bunnings has left one of Wollongong's strategic town centres with a major vacant hole, which Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery says could force the council to rethink its long-term strategic plans for the area.
The hardware giant's move to Kembla Grange has been on the cards for years, with the council acknowledging in its 2013 strategic plan for Warrawong that the site was part of an "opportunity site".
"The Bunnings site and adjacent car park, is a large site in single ownership," the seven-year-old plan stated.
"This land, west of King Street, is a potential catalyst site for redevelopment in the town centre. This site also provides an opportunity to link the town centre to the Lake Illawarra foreshore."
The land is zoned B3 Commercial Core, which permits a wide range of uses like education, community and commercial facilities, medical centres, hotels, churches, recreation facilities, clubs, seniors housing and "shop-top" housing.
As the Bunnings move-out date got closer in recent months, many residents began to develop wishlists on social media, saying that something like Costco, Ikea or another large warehouse store would be an ideal replacement.
But Cr Bradbery said he would like to see less retail in the area, given the challenges facing existing retail businesses.
"In the light of what's going on out there, that whole area needs to be given a rethink. It doesn't need any more retail, the city already has too much retail now," he said.
"That's half the problem, with this area and other areas like the mall. The market is shrinking, the impact of online retail is biting into that space - so it's not that we need more retail.
"When it comes to this particular space, somebody with deep pockets and an appropriate imagination and drive could put all sorts of things there."
He said it was "quite feasible" that a developer could choose to lodge a rezoning proposal development to change the site so that houses or some other type of residential development could be built.
"If there was a development proposal to come forward, we might need to revisit our Town Centre Master Plan," he said.
"And not only that, we might need to revisit the plan in the light of where retail is going as well."
"This could be an opportunity for somebody with a bit of creativity to revisit that site. Admittedly there are some constraints, there is some flooding capabilities that would need to be looked at. But if a suitable project came up, then I think the council would be amenable to looking at it."