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Rhinelander considering downtown changes

Rhinelander Hodag in Rhinelander, WI
Rhinelander Hodag in Rhinelander, WI

RHINELANDER, Wis. (WXPR) -- Rhinelander residents and business owners had a chance to see five possible ideas for what a new downtown would look like.

City officials are planning an upgrade of the underground utilities in 2016 with a primary focus on Davenport, Brown and Stevens Streets. Along with the utility work upgrade, the city and Downtown Rhinelander would like to remake how the downtown appears at street level.

Gary Becker from Vierbicher(veer'­bicker) Associates told attendees last night Rhinelander has a major economic impact in its trade area.  "Of all the sales that occur within the 3600 sq. mi. area,, Rhinelander accounts for 32 percent of those sales. Downtown Rhinelander captures about 4 percent of that."

But Becker says a large market exists nearby for people with second homes.  "A little over 33,000 housing units. That's a lot of people. When people are using those units, that's a lot of people that are out there. They come to Rhinelander to buy goods and services."

Architect Suzanne Vincent says there is much to work with.  "We're looking at recreating the downtown, creating more sidewalk space, maybe some sidewalk cafes, maybe more activity on the street. How do we get some of the utility stuff to the back of the building or out of sight so the public realm is a little nicer."

The city has already received a $3.7 million guarantee from USDA for the utility work and all parties are looking for more public funding for the Streetscape portion.

Attendees were given five street design options to comment on. More information is at Rhinelander streetscape dot com.

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