Developer tees up golf cart taxi service in downtown Wilmington

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Eunice LaFate quizzes Andrew Cercena about the new golf cart taxi service he's starting for  Buccini/Pollin Group. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Eunice LaFate quizzes Andrew Cercena about the new golf cart taxi service he's starting for Buccini/Pollin Group. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Wilmington officials have worked diligently in recent years to bring the Delaware city’s once-crumbling downtown back to life.

Their efforts are starting to pay off. Restaurants, bars, residences and shops dot the 12-block stretch that had been filled with vacant or rundown storefronts.

Now one developer has teed up a novel way to help people get around the central business district.

Andrew Cercena showcased the initiative for a WHYY reporter this week, and the vehicle he was driving along downtown streets drew curious glances.

That’s because it’s a souped-up, six-seat golf cart. It’s the city’s newest transportation service, one cooked up by the Buccini/Pollin Group that is leading downtown’s transformation. One executive got the idea when he visited Nashville, which has a similar service.

“It’s like a car without doors,’’ Cercena said. ”Our goal for this it to activate the greater Market Street area and showcase the highlights of Wilmington and how it’s improved lately.”

Cercena is one of the two college interns from the University of Delaware’s entrepreneurial school leading the initiative.

He said users can simply download an app — WILMINGO — similar to those used by Uber and Lyft.

Rides costs $3 for up to one or two passengers. It’s $5 for up to five riders who want to get a quick lift to lunch several blocks away or head to a meeting. And a bar crawl service includes discounts on libations.

Andrew Cercena is one of two University of Delaware entrepreneurial students running the golf cart taxi service. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

“People will say, ‘I’m here and I want to go here,’ and we’ll pick them up in a golf cart and take them to their destination,” Cercena said.

The drivers are also called ambassadors with a mission to help people find other places downtown to visit.

The fledgling initiative, which officially launched Wednesday, only serves downtown with one cart, at a cost of about $10,000. Should it succeed, Cercena said, it could be expanded to the riverfront area of restaurants, businesses, shops and residences south of downtown.

While giving WHYY a tour, Cercena stopped at Seventh and Market streets, the site of a 2-year-old Starbucks and a new high-end Italian eatery.

Ron Freeman, who lives and works downtown, said he welcomes the service.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,’’ Freeman said. “You don’t have to worry about parking. You jump in here and go. I’d pay three bucks. I’d pay $4 because it’s really a convenience.”

Eunice LaFate, who runs a gallery on Market Street, asked Cercena how she can get a ride, and he demonstrated how to find and use the app.

“That’s neat,’’ she replied.

Cercena and partner Matt Lombardi are tailoring operating hours to meet the needs of downtown workers, residents and visitors. The service will run from May through October.

Like any new business downtown, though, it remains to be seen if this one will take flight.

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