The "for lease" signs in empty shops along Crown Street send a message to some that it's time for a different approach along the CBD's main road.
Since early last year, Mercury journalists have trudged along Crown Street, from Harbour Street to the train station, to count the number of shopfronts both opened and closed.
With the city coming out of lockdown, a third walk along this 1.4-kilometre stretch this week found the one in four ratio had not changed.
All-up there were 199 shopfronts counted along Crown Street, including places like Telstra and the various government offices.
Of those, 149 were full and 50 were vacant. Shopfront areas where development or renovations were going on - such as at Lang's Corner - were classed as full.
Areas where development is planned but not yet under way - like the WIN Grand site along Crown Street between Keira and Atchison streets - were classed as empty.
That stretch was among the worst on Crown Street, with 14 vacant shopfronts.
Colliers Wollongong manages those properties in the WIN Grand site and managing director Simon Kersten said, even though that huge development was planned, those shopfronts were still available for lease.
"Some businesses, especially start-ups, a year's good for them," Mr Kersten said.
"They don't want to commit to five years so I've got quite a few tenants in those buildings and we get people moving in all time."
Kersten said the vacant shopfronts on Crown Street were due a combination of factors, among them Wollongong City Council's old policy of only allowing CBD residential development if there was a commercial component at ground level (aka shop-top housing) and an increase in online shopping.
Mr Kersten said that had resulted in more retail space than the city needed, but rather than panicking about it he felt the city will sort itself out.
"The city's in a state of flux - I don't think it's necessarily a problem for the city," he said.
"Our tired city is certainly getting revived. People are living in it and there are new buildings going up.
"These unwanted spaces will be redeveloped into some different use; that might mean the whole building gets knocked over and everything above them gets redeveloped."
Jay Johnson opened Dropbear Comics on Crown Street eight months ago.
He bucked the accepted wisdom that, if you're on Crown Street, the mall is the place to be. Instead, he moved out of the mall to set up shop at the Atchison Street intersection.
"I like here better than the mall," he said.
"The mall seems to be a ghost town at the moment. I grew up in Western Sydney, in Windsor and Penrith, where they did malls, they went back and ripped them out."
With the proposed WIN Grand development across the road, Mr Johnson is looking at it being a boost to business.
"For 12 months the footpath on that side is going to be closed and everyone will have to walk on this side, right past my shop," he said.
On top of that, once built, the apartment towers will likely house families with comic-loving kids.
Tailor Phillip Yalson has run his City Mode Clothing store on Crown Street for 21 years. He felt things were better before - now there are just too many empty shops.
"Most of the shops are closed now, and they don't come back. Something happened to the area," he said.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said it was time for a rethink on Crown Street as its days as the 'high street' were well and truly gone.
"There's a different dynamic going on in the centre of Wollongong and it is not all about retail any more," Cr Bradbery said.
"It's about recreation, hospitality, living space and work space - a whole mix of things. It's a whole new game."
That was especially the case for the western end, near the train station, which has historically been a problem for retail.
"There's a lot of potential there because it's so close to the rail station," he said.
"So it might be a place where people want to live so it might mean more apartments."