Sutherland Shire Council faces a difficult balancing act in advancing the second stage of the Cronulla mall upgrade.
Mayor Carmelo Pesce said businesses had already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and construction work would create an extra impact.
"I don't want to inflict more pain on businesses," he said. "We will have have to make sure we work with them on this."
The council decided on Monday to publicly exhibit the consulting architect's design for the proposed $32 million works, which include a children's water play feature, big screen for special events, new paving, a family-friendly amenities block, modern street furniture, "arty" lighting and a larger variety of trees.
The proposed timetable is for public exhibition in August-September, followed by further design development and construction to start in winter 2020-21 at the earliest.
There are three components - Kingsway from the mall down to Elouera Road, the Town Square at the northern end of the mall and the plaza down to Ocean Grove.
A staff report said, "As the Kingsway is the most advanced of the design components and will have the least impact on business owners, it is proposed that this could be delivered first with the other components being delivered over subsequent years".
Mothers with young children, interviewed in the mall by the Leader, agreed with the need for an upgrade of the mall and most supported the water play feature.
"I think it would be great," said Sherridan Gallon, of Cronulla, who has two daughters, aged four and 17 months.
Ms Gallon said she thought the mall "needs a bit of an upgrade, but nothing too dramatic".
"Some more trees and plantings would be ideal."
Nicole, who has two children Demi, 4, and Kai, 2, said the water play area would become very crowded, with a potential problem with clean water.
Nicole also said the existing enclosed playground was a tremendous feature and a similar facility should be included in the new design.
Chelsea Gilbert and Amy Carlyon, who used to live in the shire and moved to Adelaide, said the mall was not up to the standard of similar areas in their new home city.
Jessie Sellar, of Gymea Bay, said a new amenities block was very much needed.
"We have avoided Cronulla for so long because the last time we came here we found the toilets in the mall and down on the park were unsanitary," she said.