Wollongong council will push ahead with its controversial plan to ban new residential buildings in some parts of the CBD, warning that without a major policy shift the area risks losing its role as a true regional city.
However, after mixed reviews from the community and strong objections from property developers, the council has agreed to scale back the extent of its proposed office-only zones in the final version of its City Centre Planning Review.
Compared with the draft plan from February, the area of Market Street west of Keira Street has been removed from the residential ban.
The depth of a commercial-only zone along Burelli Street has been reduced, and Lowdon Square - next to Wollongong station - has been added to the zone.
The review, which is set to be adopted as policy next week, is the council's first major move towards changing planning zones, building height limits and floor space ratios in the city.
It could see an end to the bulky skyscrapers constructed in recent years, and a move away from the "shop-top" apartments which have left the mall struggling to retain its place as the retail heart of the city.
It will also pave the way for several new precincts, allow for better cycling and pedestrian access in the city, and hold developers to much higher design standards.
During consultation of the draft, the council said the idea of commercial streets was the most "contentious" plan, with about a fifth of residents not supporting the idea.
Most said they were happy to have more jobs close to their homes but thought there was already enough residential development in the city centre.
"The function of Wollongong is changing," one supporter said. "We are no longer the retail hub of the Illawarra, but rather a commercial centre incorporating head office centres, law, government departments, finance and the like."
We are no longer the retail hub of the Illawarra, but rather a commercial centre incorporating head office centres, law, government departments, finance and the like.Supporter of the plan.
It was more unpopular with industry and advocacy groups, especially those with an interest in residential property.
In response, the council strengthened its argument for why commercial-only zones are needed, saying that the current controls allowing residential "shop-top" development to be built in commercial zones "threaten [Wollongong's] role as a Regional City".
"This is resulting in minimal commercial development and maximum residential development," the plan says.
"A-grade office tenants prefer to locate in commercial-only zones where large floor plates are available.
"Without intervention, there is a risk that Wollongong will not be able to improve prospects for commercial development or achieve its status as a major regional city."
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