Wollongong's CBD of the future will be significantly smaller - and so will many of the new buildings within it - as the council moves ahead with its most significant planning reforms in more than a decade.
The reforms are a dramatic move away from rules brought in in 2007, which have created the escarpment-blocking line of skyscrapers on Wollongong's highest hill, and rows of empty shopfronts in its retail precinct.
In a 300-plus page suite of documents released this week, the council has laid out the detail of its proposed new rules for the city centre.
If adopted, both CBD boundaries and height limits will shrink, potentially affecting development opportunities - and prices - for some developers.
Currently, the city centre stretches from Stuart Park down to Swan Street near IRT Links Seaside, but under the proposal Smith Street will be the northern boundary, while Bank and Ellen Streets will be the cut off in the south.
The council says this will remove a lot of residential zoned land from the CBD, and allow it to focus on commercial and tourism uses.
The rezoning proposal is critical of current height limits, imposed by the NSW Government in 2007, which it says have "generated poor building and streetscape outcomes that fail to respond to local context".
"The tallest buildings are currently permitted on the highest topographic point, impacting views to the escarpment and giving the impression that these buildings are the centre of the city," the planning proposal says.
"East of Keira Street the centre has a relatively flat monotonous skyline."
To fix this, some height limits in the city will be cut in half or by one third, while others will double (see story, left).
We are basically trying to reconfigure a city that has already got a lot of challenges that have been presented by past mistakes.
As flagged earlier this year in its adopted Urban Design Framework, the council will also ban residential development from parts of the city to encourage a concentration of tall office buildings and attract more jobs to the region.
To do this, it will remove permission for shop-top housing, boarding houses and seniors housing to be built in the Commercial Core zone. However, these will be allowed as an "additional use" outside the designated Burelli Street "commercial spine" where all new housing will be banned.
On other commercial zoned land, at least 30 per cent of new buildings will need to have a commercial use - a big increase from the current requirements which allow 95 per cent to be residential.
The commercial "B3" zoned land will also be reduced by about 20 hectares, and replaced with a mixed use zoning.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the proposed planning measures aimed to "better manage the city centre as an employment hub that's not just about residential [uses]."
"We are basically trying to reconfigure a city that has already got a lot of challenges that have been presented by past mistakes," he said.
This included the way the Innovation Campus "sucked the oxygen out of the centre of Wollongong", leaving the council now trying to reestablish the CBD as the centre of employment.
The documents will be considered by councillors at next week's meeting.
If adopted, the planning proposal will need to get sign off from the NSW Planning department before it comes back to be placed on exhibition sometime next year.
With the formal feedback period then to go for at least two months, the new rules - and any adjustments made to them in the meantime - may not be in place until well into next year.
Until then, developers will be able to lodge plans under the existing controls.
Cr Bradbery acknowledged that property owners' financial prospects may change as a result of the zoning changes, and said he expected some savvy developers to lodge their plans before the height controls were changed.
"There's always winners and losers in these sorts of things and that's why people have the opportunity to get in now before things change," he said.
"Developers will look at the prospects of wins and losses and hopefully the adjustment will not be threatening to too many people.
"But with the forecasting we have before us, we have to make decisions regarding the future shape of the city centre."
How heights are proposed to change
The proposed changes to heights in the CBD are designed to protect views to Mount Keira and Mount Kembla.
The tallest buildings will run in an "east-west spine" along Burelli Street, and heights will then be stepped-down to protect natural features, Crown Street Mall and the Arts Precinct.
Areas proposed to be affected include:
- West Crown Street - halved from 120m to 60m
- WIN-owned land and Piccadilly - cut from 120 to 80m as height was deemed 'excessive'
- Lower Crown Street - halved from 48m to 24m
- Burelli Street - up from 48m to 65m
- Denison Street - cut from 48m to 32m and 60m to 32m to protect escarpment views
- West Market Street - cut from 80m to 32m to protect views of cathedral and escarpment
- Atchison to Kenny Street - up from 60m to 120m to concentrate height around office buildings
The story Wollongong CBD's new rules: make the city smaller and shrink the skyscrapers first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.