The Chamber originally proposed replacing the existing kiosks at the intersection of Witherspoon Street and Vandeventer Avenue with interactive electronic kiosks that would also include ads, maps and the FreeB schedule. Under the original proposal, community members could still post flyers on a section of the kiosks, but they would be placed under glass.
“We talked to constituents, listened to feedback and changed the design,” said Peter Crowley, president and CEO of the Chamber, at the Princeton Council meeting Monday night.
Crowley said the kiosk at the intersection of Vandeventer Avenue would include three cork board panels for community flyers. Guidelines for posting would include setting a size for the flyers, which would be date stamped and taken down when an event is finished. Up to three cork board panels could be included at the kiosk at the intersection of Witherspoon Street, he said.
Fifty percent of the panels for each kiosk would be dedicated to local merchants, regional businesses, and non-profits, and 50 percent of space would be set aside for municipal information and community flyers, Crowley said.
The Chamber would charge for ads, but Crowley said he did not know what each ad would cost. The Chamber plans to outsource the management of advertising, he said. The Chamber would enter in to a five-year lease with the town to rent the kiosks. It will cost the Chamber $40,000 to upgrade the kiosks, and the project would take about 10 weeks, Crowley said. The redesigned kiosks would include LED lighting, but plans for interactive electronic displays were scrapped.
“No one wanted the Chamber to be the decided factor regarding what kind of information was provided, and we couldn’t find a vendor who could say the displays would be damage resistant,” Crowley said. “Cost was also an issue.”
Crowley said he is amazing at how much information residents don’t know about the area and what it has to offer. The kiosks could provide helpful information to residents and visitors.
“Princeton is the jewel of our county and state, with more than 1 million visitors a year, and there is not a central place for information in town,” he said. “The new design would give a cleaner look to downtown, and provide more information for businesses and residents. Right now the kiosks have so much information that no one gets any information. They are such a conglomeration of everything. They are disorganized, the person who puts up biggest sign gets the most visibility, and things are stapled over the next day.”
Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said she has not heard any positive feedback from the public about the proposal. Some residents see the advertising as an assault on the downtown’s character, and want to preserve the old-school feel of the downtown.
“Do you really think the kiosks communicate something?” Crowley said, adding that from his perspective, the opposition from some residents is because they just don’t want change. “It’s more of an emotional issue as opposed to an analytical issue,” he said.
Crumiller said she would rather see the kiosks taken down altogether than see big advertising signs on them.
Resident Chip Crider said the kiosks serve a public function, and he is worried about the downtown looking too sterile.
“Taking away a significant amount of posting space is wrong. Besides, if you put these fancy kiosks in, it does not mean people will not find a way to put papers on lampposts, trash cans, and everything else,” Crider said. “What you’re really talking about is adding billboards to Nassau Street. ”
Marisa Benson said she is concerned that grassroots arts event organizers will not get promoted as much on the new kiosks. People might feel too intimidated to submit their events. Crowley said anyone could display an event in the public space as long as flyers are consistent with size requirements.
Administrator Bob Bruschi told Council members the Chamber spent a lot of time on the proposal.
“We have put an effort in to maintaining the kiosks in the past, but this is not something we have a lot of time to do,” Bruschi said. “Someone else monitoring them at no cost to us is a win-win from my perspective.”
But Councilwoman Heather Howard said she sensed a lack of enthusiasm on Council and from the public regarding the proposal.
“I hear a lot of concern from the public that we are being taken over by chains,” she said. “I worry that this would speed up that impression and take away from what is a unique downtown.”
Councilwoman Jo Butler agreed with Crumiller that she would rather see the kiosks removed than redesigned with advertising. She said her first concern is safety at the crosswalks of the two intersections. The town’s traffic and transportation committee is reviewing how the redesign would affect safety and the committee will make a recommendation to the council in a few weeks.