Downtown Aesthetics Weigh Heavily in Aurora, Ill., Kiosk Talks

Aldermen raised concerns about how the sleek, modern kiosks would integrate with the rest of the city’s design features.

by Steve Lord, The Beacon-News / August 23, 2018

(TNS) — The Aurora, Ill., City Council is set to vote next week on allowing a New York company to install high-tech, informational kiosks in eight locations in the city, mostly downtown.

Aldermen will vote on a memorandum of understanding between the city and Smart City Media, of New York, to install and operate interactive outdoor kiosks that use the City Post smart media platform.

Under the proposal, the company would install eight kiosks at no cost to the city. The agreement would include the city getting 25 percent of all revenue raised by selling advertising on the kiosks. In return for no upfront costs, the city would agree to a 10-year contract with Smart City.

“It’s not just advertising,” said Michael Pegues, Aurora’s chief information officer. “There is a wayfinding element, public safety and data collection.”

The kiosks would have an app for smart phones that means people could use their phones to ask for information through the kiosk. It would post public safety bulletins, such as breaking weather information and other items that might arise, city technology officials said.

It could also post information from the city, from aldermen and other governmental agencies.

Pegues said the kiosks also could collect information for the city, such as how much foot traffic there is in a given area.

The advertising also can target with push advertising — special notices about a business on someone’s smart phone as they walk through downtown.

Smart City Media is a three-year-old company, based in New York City, that has installed similiar kiosks in places like Kansas City, Little Rock, New York, Washington, D.C., Memphis and Louisville.

Kansas City, in particular, has embraced the technology with a number of downtown locations that have expanded to other parts of the city. Officials said by the end of 2025, Kansas City plans to have 107 of these kiosks.

Recently, the University of Missouri-Kansas City became the first college campus with the kiosks, connecting the campus to the community.

In Kansas City, officials helped pay for the installation, which means the city is getting 75 percent of the advertising revenue. Because Aurora would pay no installation fee or upfront cost, it would get 25 percent.

Still, Smart City officials estimated the city would get almost $740,000 in revenue during the 10-year contract, based on an estimate of total revenue at $3.8 million.

Aldermen this week at the Committee of the Whole meeting generally praised the concept.

Ald. Carl Franco, 5th Ward, joked that the setup sounded “too good to be true.”

“We pay nothing and get revenue — that’s pretty good,” he said.

Ald. Michael Saville, 6th Ward, called it “a good idea,” but said he was concerned the sleek, silver design would not match the city’s general design of its benches, trash barrels and light poles downtown.

“The downtown has a streetscape,” he said. “Has there been any thought to making it match that?”

Alex Alexandrou, Aurora’s chief management officer, said “part of the attraction” of the kiosks is the concept of something “modern and attractive.” Officials said Smart City has several kinds of designs, and the city would ask which might fit best in downtown.

Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th Ward, said officials with Aurora Downtown, an organization of property owners and businesses in the downtown area, knew nothing about the proposed kiosks when the idea first became public last week.

“It might be a good idea to get your people, the key stakeholders in this, actively involved,” Mervine said. He pointed out that Aurora Downtown has been discussing ways of directing people through downtown and the kiosks are “certainly a step up in terms of wayfinding.”

“It would be helpful to make contact before next Tuesday,” added Ald. Robert O’Connor, at large.

Pegues called that “a good point” and said officials considered council approval of the memorandum of understanding the first step.

“The next step is to sit down with those folks,” he said.

Mayor Richard Irvin has been pushing the kiosk plan after seeing how it worked while at a technology conference in Kansas City.

The sites city officials are looking at downtown for the kiosks include the Transportation Center on North Broadway, the Water Street Mall in front of City Hall, City Hall itself, the Development Services Center, RiverEdge Park, the Aurora Arts Center and the Paramount Theatre. The one location outside downtown is the Route 59 Metra station.

©2018 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.