Growing CBD Driving Vibrant Nightlife In Wollongong

You may have noticed that the scene in the Wollongong CBD has been changing, and you wouldn’t be the only one. The growing demand for diverse dining and nightlife options and a vibrant CBD has been a focus for Council in recent years and has attracted the attention of the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner, Michael Rodrigues.

The evolution and diversification of the CBD brings with it fantastic opportunity for hospitality and nightlife, and Wollongong City Council has been working to foster and grow the vibrant live music scene and night-time economy in the city centre.

“The data we’ve seen from the recent Economic Insights Report shows there is a clear appetite from the community for diverse dining and nightlife options,” Wollongong City Council’s City and Culture Manager Sofia Gibson said.

“We’ve continued to waive fees on outdoor dining permits and are investing in improvements to outdoor dining spaces in Globe Lane, Crown Lane, and Crown Street as part of our ongoing efforts to help activate our city and transform the CBD into a vibrant space.

We’ve also recently had two exciting ‘Art After Dark’ events at the Wollongong Art Gallery with two nights of free live music and performances featuring many local musicians, artists, and performers.”

Second Idol performing at Wollongong Art Gallery

Image: Second Idol performing at Wollongong Art Gallery’s ‘Art After Dark’

Last year Council endorsed an updated Wollongong CBD Night Time Economy Policy and this year we’ve been working with the Office of the 24-Hour Commissioner to advise local businesses of some fantastic opportunities, including the Uptown Accelerator project.

“Wollongong is a creative city, and we are lucky enough to have some fantastic live music venues, talented musicians and a range of hospitality businesses already contributing to the growing night life,” Ms Gibson said.

“One of our objectives in the Wollongong CBD Night Time Economy Policy is to foster good relations between the residents of the Wollongong CBD and businesses which trade at night. The goal is to create a vibrant, diverse, and balanced community and experience for everyone.”

Council met with Michael Rodrigues (24-Hour Economy Commissioner) earlier this month, and this week will be host to a panel discussion with the Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy and the 24-Hour Economy Commissioner on shared and emerging night-time economy trends and challenges. This is an opportunity for industry and government stakeholders to come together and will be the first time this kind of panel has been held outside of Sydney.

The new Draft Creative Wollongong 2024-2033 Strategy including actions to support the 24-Hour Economy was presented to Councillor’s at last night’s Council meeting, and will be on public exhibition from 30 May to 26 June 2024. This gives the community an opportunity to put the ‘final brushstrokes’ on the Strategy and help shape culture and creativity in Wollongong over coming years.

A shift in industry and spending

In recent years we’ve seen a shift in the key employment industries located in the Wollongong CBD with the Health sector as well as Professional and Financial services leading the way as the highest employing areas. With this shift comes an increased demand for A Grade office space and residential development in the CBD. Approximately $1.9 Billion of projects were completed or under construction over the last decade, and an additional $1 Billion in mixed use, residential and commercial projects are planned for the future.

This increase, along with the fact that close to 30 per cent of the jobs across Wollongong are located in the CBD, are some of the driving forces behind the increased expenditure on dining and entertainment in the Wollongong CBD. The most recent Spendmapp data analysis shows that in aggregate terms, overall real expenditure for dining and entertainment expenditure in the CBD in December was 8.6% above the same period last year, despite cost of living and interest rate rises.

Spendmapp Data Dining and Entertainment Spending CBD.jpg

Image: Spendmapp data for Dining and Entertainment spending in Wollongong CBD

With the increase in demand for both A Grade office space and residential development over the past few years, what was once primarily a traditional retail centre has begun its transformation into a true Central Business District, with a growing appetite for diverse dining and nightlife options.

Council’s Economic Development Manager, Mark Grimson said the Invest Wollongong program and recently released Investment Prospectus highlights the significant economic opportunities underway across a range of key sectors in Wollongong.

“One of those opportunities is the growth of the professional services and tech sector within the Wollongong CBD, with 50% growth in new A-grade office space having been delivered in just the last 4 years, with another 50,000sqm now approved,” Mark said.

“In fact, the performance of the Wollongong CBD was acknowledged by Property Council’s Feb 2024 Annual Office Market Report as one of the best performing non-capital office markets in the country in the last 6 months.”

Whether it’s been a while since your last visit, you’re a first-timer or a regular, Wollongong CBD has no shortage of options so why not plan your next visit?

Plan your visit and stay up to date with what’s on with the Wollongong CBD event calendar

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