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Downtown Visitor Kiosks? Not So Fast, Say Borough Officials

A proposal to revamp two kiosks along Nassau Street was met with interest, but also some concern.

 

Borough officials have deferred a decision that would create new visitor kiosks on Nassau Street, saying the issue needs more investigation.

Council members on Tuesday unanimously voted to table the discussion, expressing concerns over free speech, safety and whether the town actually needs them.

The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce hopes to lease, upgrade and beautify the kiosks- typically plastered with multiple layers of disorganized flyers- at the corner of Vandeventer and Witherspoon Streets.

PRCC President & CEO Peter Crowley said the eight-paneled weather-resistant kiosks would be equipped with a touch screen and multilingual technology to help visitors find the best attractions and local events.

There would be designated space for municipal use, non-profit/educational, the downtown merchants association and interactive panels, Crowley said. About half of the panels would be for paid advertising.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi presented a $1 per year lease proposal to council on Tuesday.

“Our ultimate goal was to clean (the kiosks) up and make them a little more functional,” he said. “They’re a little bit of a maintenance nightmare for the Borough.”

Borough Council Member Roger Martindell agreed the the proposal would beautify the kiosks, but said making people people go through a posting ‘vetting’ process could limit intellectual discussion in town that happens when people post extreme religious, social or political messages.

“These are public spaces and they’re meant to be a forum for public dialogue,” Martindell said. “I’m a little afraid that we’ll lose that quality.”

Council Member Jo Butler suggested referring the matter to the Traffic and Transportation subcommittee because the locations are at two of the most dangerous intersections in town and she worries the displays could contribute to distracted driving.

She also wondered if the kiosks are necessary, since information is readily available on the internet or at the Princeton Public Library.

“If we didn’t have these kiosks at all would we consider even having them at all,” Butler said. “And I think the answer is no. I don’t think it’s where communities are going.”

Because the kiosks need an initial upfront investment, the PRCC would keep all revenue until they are paid for: after that the Borough and the PRCC would split the revenue evenly.

Mimi Omiecinski, who first brought up the idea of a local visitors center and revamping the kiosks, said she understands the council’s concerns, but hopes officials will also consider the proposal’s potential revenue.

“What I think is exciting is the 50/50 split because the community and Convention and Visitors Bureau have an opportunity to gain revenue at a time when we’re looking to consolidate and looking at interesting ways to reduce property taxes.”

Mimi September 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Princeton is a world class globally recognized community with 1.7 million visitors and extremely limited competition for outdoor advertisement space. It's commercially arguable the kiosks could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. If you think about it, the Princeton kiosks are the Times Square of the Ivy League. It's obvious the visitors to Princeton are not going away so the task is to explore the opportunities inherent in being a destination city. The kiosk and visitor center are just the beginning of a thoughtful dialogue about significant revenue opportunities for consolidated Princeton. lnformation centers, tour operator/motor coach permitting, designated motor coach loading/unloading areas, satellite employee parking and hotel occupancy tax reform are routine conversations in similar cities. It's such an exciting time to see a revenue sharing dialogue get started between the tourism community and elected officials. These concepts will be new territory at first but could result in changing the economic landscape of consolidated Princeton (This was a COMPLETE team effort on the project. When the idea was pitched, Lori Rabon and Bob Bruschi investigated the spaces. The CVB and Chamber have worked very hard to make sure these projects are well received. It's another example of amazing collaboration in Princeton!) Mimi O
CN September 13, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Don't mess with the kiosks! They are iconic of Princeton, a college town and community that values free speech.
Caralien Miller Speth September 13, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Leave the kiosks alone & work on more worthwhile matters, like keeping the post office in Palmer Square, saving the Dinky, and having morning hours at Community Park Pool.
Upper Crust Lady September 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Put a store directory and map on the large Kiosk on Palmer Square but don't put tacky commercial advertisements on our street corners. We're not a shopping mall. Besides, tourism is not an unmitigated benefit for Princeton residents. We should ask ourselves if we actually want more of it. Tourism adds life the downtown, and residents get the benefit of parking revenue, but the only other revenue is from increased taxes paid by commercial property owners when their rents increase. Some would argue that this pushes out retail with lower profit margins. There are probably costs associated with policing the increased visitor population.
Mimi September 13, 2012 at 08:28 PM
This is why I love Princeton! The dialogue is passionate. Tourism in Princeton has climbed every year and some would argue it's because there are NO motor coach or tour operator permit requirements. ("Why not come to Princeton since it's free" is the mentality of HUGE motor coach operators who are clogging Nassau Street. These companies aren't impolite or rude, they aren't being told how to visit Princeton. In NYC and Philly they charge tour guides and motor coaches by the day, month, season. Same for motor coaches. I personally think you'd want to provide permits and organize the visitors toward economic benefit. I truly appreciate opposing views and look forward to continued discussions!
Eliane Geren September 14, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I like our kiosks with lots of flyers. It reminds me that no matter how "perfect" Princeton looks in many ways, it's still human.
Reasonable Princeton September 14, 2012 at 11:48 AM
I love the kiosk idea. I think it is a great creative way to raise revenues in Princeton. In order to keep Princeton at the same level that the residents have come to expect, there needs to be innovative ideas to bring in revenue to keep taxes from rising. In addition, the kiosks would also help the small business owner by directing people to their businesses which they desperately need. The tourists are already here, the town should be directing them in ways that would benefit the businesses and residents.
Molly February 22, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Balance Balance Balance, the upgrades are overdue, needed, the kiosks take litter on a stick to a lower level...The opportunity to generate some revenue, promote Princeton to the million plus visitors and still offer the cork boards...C'mon, it is smart, clean, classic look and benefit the businesses in town and civic organizations. I support doing something, anything to improve the current condition of the kiosks, and what is being proposed, keeping the structures in their current state is an excellent balance, offering advertising, promoting community events, and still several cork panels. Check with the businesses on Spring Street, Hullfish, the North end of Nassau Street and ask them if they would like to have advertising or a directional map highlighting their businesses, or promoting community programs balance and makes sense. When I hear the agruement using "mall signs" "sterile" is not accurate, recalling that Jenny Crumiller, a Princeton councilwoman, who at a previous council meeting stated "If I want to post that I am killing puppies in my basement, I should have that right to post whatever I want" WOW! I had three teenage girls in my car this weekend, outside of PJ's, and asked about the kiosks and the simple response was they are disgusting, and I agree, bravo Mr. Crowley! Support local businesses, not killing puppies or RAV parties

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