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DDA approves cell phone tour of downtown


BRADENTON - Soon, you'll be able to dial a number and get information about some spots in downtown Bradenton.

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The Downtown Development Authority on Thursday unanimously approved spending $10,000 for Realize Bradenton to set up a cell phone tour called "Guide By Cell," though at present most of the locations have not been set.

According to Cliff Curley, who spoke for the program in the absence of Jane Plitt of the Downtown Vitality and Events committee, the sites would have signs giving people walking through downtown and stopped at a location the history of the site and what stars would be visible in the sky. People would call a phone number, press a button for their language and hear prerecorded segments with other facts.

Retailers could text-message people on the tour, sending out information about coupons or specials, said Mike Kennedy, executive director of the DDA.

The contract that would be signed has a 30-day cancellation option, Curley said. The "Guide By Cell" technology would cost $5,000, and the signs would cost an additional $5,000, he said. The total request of $24,000 includes "Guide By Cell" and the signs, plus the marketing for the Baseball Hall of Fame and watercolor events.

"I think it's a great idea," authority member Jayne Kocher said. "I'm just concerned if we're ready for this."

It's important to create the sense of place before you start walking people around, she noted.

"I don't know where you're going to take them to."

"The idea is to have signs affixed to historical buildings," Kennedy said.

Curley said the signage would be at four locations on the river, Mattison's restaurant, the Promenade, the clock and amphitheater. The other locations will be downtown, at specific intersections which will describe buildings that were or are there now, and other information at the area. The information will come from Kathy Slusser of the county.

The descriptions are already written, he said, and those will be placed on the signs, which will replace the city's signage. The cell phone information will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will operate on its own.

"The cost for this system is remarkably small," Curley said. "The monthly charge for 250 calls to the system is about $250, and then that goes up by $100; $350 for 350 calls. I would love to see us have 300 calls. We'll be starting low on this, slow on this, but it's a system that does bring some continuity and some focus.

"Because these are points, these are destinations for people."

The contract is a month-to-month deal, so they can end it if it's not working out, Curley said, and there is no cost for new locations other than signage. "We can just add locations for no additional charge."

"I think generally this is cutting edge," Kocher said. But if we say "Hey, come see what we have at the amphitheater, they're going to be disappointed," she said.

"It's not telling about what the amphitheater is," Curley said. "The sign has three functions: One, it's going to tell what's up in the night sky; the nature around, what you can see; and the third aspect is the history. So at any point, you can listen to just one or all three."

Other DDA decisions

The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority on Thursday:

  • Passed with one dissenting vote an update to the Unchain My Fence grant program

  • Approved unanimously a special event request grant of $2,500 for the Old Main Street Merchants Association's Downtown 4th of July Celebration.

  • Heard an update on Realize Bradenton's progress.

  • Approved unanimously up to $62,500 a partial funding match for the Realize Bradenton executive director and a part-time assistant.

  • Approved unanimously for up to $10,000 an AmeriCorps VISTA position for Village of the Arts.

  • Met Ann Wykell, the new part-time coordinator for public art.


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