Wollongong's Wonderwalls festival has been recognised as a game changing regional urban design project, and will be used as an example of how other towns across NSW can improve their public spaces.
This week, NSW Government Architect Abbie Galvin released a new guide, Urban Design for Regional NSW, to help councils, planners and designers create better spaces in regional NSW.
As well as setting out seven principals for regional design - like the importance of history, culture, walkability, healthy living and sustainability - the guide includes 10 projects which have improved the quality of life in regional areas.
Among innovative council master plans, architectural marvels and multi-million dollar residential developments, Wollongong's renowned street art festival - which was first staged in 2012 - stands out as the most grassroots example of how to transform a city.
"What Wonderwalls demonstrates, is that projects big and small can have an impact," Ms Galvin said.
"Sometime the built environment is physical elements, and other times it's interventions into the build environment that can be quite transformational.
"Wonderwalls is a beautiful example of taking spaces that people assume have no quality and character, and saying 'these can actually be interesting'.
"We often think of heritage as being post-colonial 19th century or early 20th century buildings, but actually character of a place is made up of a lot of different things.
"Industrial fabrics and remnants of 1950s buildings all have their place, and Wonderwalls is a beautiful example of being able to find something wonderful in those things too."
She also said the festival has been chosen as it showed an innovative way of bringing the community together and "drawing people back into the high streets and town centres, which is even more important in regional areas".
Wonderwalls director Simon Grant, who started the event through his arts studio Verb Syndicate, said he was proud to see the festival being held up as a best practice example of urban design.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "It's that whole cliche of: from little things big things grow and it shows that an idea and then application from a group of creatives can make a big difference to a city."
He said the festival had helped to change peoples perspective of Wollongong, and had left a legacy from dozens of street artists who have gone on to become famous for their work around the world.
"It's given the city a global flavour: artists who we've brought to Wollongong have gone on to do astronomical things and in some cases we've had them here before they went on to be famous." he said.
The festival was last staged in Wollongong in 2017: it skipped 2018 and was staged in Port Kembla in 2019.
So far, Mr Grant said there was no firm date for the festival to come back to Wollongong, but said he would "love to see it return".
"At this stage we don't have any commitments to bring the event back, but we are trying to work with previous partners to bring it back at some point," he said.
He said commercial or council controlled properties in Wollongong, industrial areas around Port Kembla, or more spaces within the Port Kembla town centre would be the ideal location for the next incarnation of the festival.
Other examples included in the guide are Bowral's High Street, a $40 million development in Byron Bay's arts estate and a city centre upgrade in Maitland.