BlueScope hopes to see 30,000 people working on its lands around Port Kembla in a return to the heyday of employment at the steelworks in the 1970s.
The vision is the latest detail in the developing masterplan for the 200 hectares of surplus land adjacent to the steelworks.
BlueScope told a gathering of Illawarra industry that the industrial lands will be preserved as employment precincts, and not turned into residential suburbs.
Nicknamed Project Emily after the wife of the first general manager - who also lent her name to the first blast furnace - the project has brought in Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group to transform the no. 1 works land to the south of Five Islands Road and the former Commonwealth Rolling Mills between Flinders Street and Five Islands Road.
The project would take a generation to execute, but general manager manufacturing at BlueScope David Scott said the company was pushing for the project to begin in earnest as the company reaches its centenary of manufacturing in the Illawarra in 2028.
"It's a bit of a flag on the hill, and I'm pushing hard and all the team here are pushing hard to ensure that we have some way of celebrating our presence here," he said.
A key enabler of the project are the existing transport links that traverse the site.
The boundary of the lands is served by a six-lane highway as well as a dual-track train line with four stations, Lysaghts, Cringila, Port Kembla North and Port Kembla in close proximity, creating further opportunities, BlueScope head of corporate affairs Michael Reay said.
"We're talking to Transport at a high level around how do we activate that," he said, "How do we unlock that and have an open front door for the community and the precinct."
The amount of land up for repurposing is roughly equivalent to the size of the Melbourne CBD and the transformation would be on a similar scale to the Docklands project. But rather than high-rise residential towers or walled off industrial land, the aim was to create a space that was open to the community.
"It's a great opportunity for the Illawarra, the state and for the country," Mr Scott said.
So far, only one tenant has been publicly confirmed, Illawarra energy storage start-up Green Gravity, but Mr Scott said the masterplan team was already in discussions with educational institutions and aimed to attract new businesses to set up alongside.
One type of tenant that would not be part of the precinct would be residential, as moving in large numbers of people close to the steel works could create land use conflicts, but in bringing in institutions to the precinct, other spaces could open up, Mr Reay said.
"For example, with TAFE, if they could come onto our precinct, and consolidate all of their different sites, does that free up other potential locations that could be converted?"
BlueScope also has another parcel of a few hundred hectares of unused land near West Dapto and Kembla Grange which would be more appropriate for housing development, Mr Reay said, depending on the westward extension of Northcliffe Drive to the other side of the train line.
Ultimately, whatever the final outcome of the master planning process, Mr Scott said the site would be reopened to the Illawarra.
"It's about bringing people back in rather than keeping them out."
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