Costco, co-work or cinema?
But one person with intimate knowledge of the site and its new owner is encouraging Wollongong to think bigger.
When it opened in 1966, the David Jones building signalled Wollongong's growth into a major regional centre as it experienced rapid growth in the two decades following World War Two.
Now in 2022, the building could signal Wollongong's next phase of transformation, said CEO of RDA Illawarra Debra Murphy.
"The workforce has changed over time, and particularly with COVID, we've had growth in professional services that could be better served with a technology hub," she said.
Anchoring the new building could be a major tenant, Ms Murphy throws out the likes of Google or Atlassian, with the rest of the floors filled with tech workers from a variety of firms on short-term leases.
"Imagine the innovation that could come from something like that right in the centre of town. You'd be creating opportunities all over the place," she said.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he would like to see a five star hotel above multiple levels of office space.
"It would be a real plus for the city to have that accommodation in the centre of the city as well to make use of the restaurants and the hospitality offering there as well," he said.
When news broke on Tuesday that the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Mass Vaccination Centre would be vacating the building, Illawarra Mercury readers responded in droves about what they would like to see at the heart of the city centre.
Unsurprisingly, based on previous commenting patterns, the idea - baseless or not - of a Costco coming to Wollongong aroused interest. Questions about how a big box retailer otherwise located in outer suburban locations would operate in a CBD remains unclear, particularly when all three street frontages are pedestrianised, but did not faze commenters.
Others took a more open view of the site, with one commenter saying the prominent block could be levelled to be turned into Wollongong's Federation Square, similar to plans City of Sydney Council has for the corner of George and Park street.
"Demolish it and put in a new town square piazza where workers and shoppers can meet, have lunch - like federation Square in Melbourne - and watch live entertainment at lunch time which Wollongong really needs," Shawn Greaves wrote. "It would connect MacCabe Park to the mall shops and open the place up. Wollongong city centre is so disjointed.. We don't need more shops we need open spaces."
Travis Machan, of MMJ Wollongong, who is working closely with the new owner of the property, said the landowner is a motivated visionary who is passionate about Wollongong and dedicated to making an impact.
"The David Jones building has an opportunity to be something great, and the decisions that council make, in relation to height limits and [floor space ratios] will ultimately govern the true potential of what it is on that site," he said.
While Globe Lane to the rear of the property has become a thriving nightlife spot with new venues La La La's, Santino, Bevanda Bar joining established stalwarts The Prince in banding together for the walkways, something different will be needed on Crown Street, Mr Machan said.
"We're seeing evidence that small boutique laneways work in creating an atmosphere and sense of life. We're still suffering through the main High Street."
With the sale of the former David Jones building soon followed by Wollongong Central changing hands, the interest from large investors in prime retail locations signalled any suggestions about the death of the CBD were premature, and instead, the retail landscape was going through a period of change.
"If we want to see something iconic occur in that area, we need to give the heart of our town its heartbeat back," Mr Machan said.
To do this, Mr Machan said there would need to be a rethinking of the traffic treatment along Crown Street Mall.
"People require exposure, connectivity and accessibility. The idea that someone will park their car at one end and go for a walk from one end of the mall to the other, that type of behaviour doesn't occur anymore," he said.
"Developers are not going to build a 20 story building in the CBD if it's not viable."
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