The year 2011 will be remembered as a “building-block year” on the continuum of downtown revitalization thanks to several major projects and efforts by volunteers. Here’s my recap of the top 11 in 2011 (in no particular order).
1. For the third year, five life-sized Hodag art sculptures found permanent homes after a full summer of showing off in downtown. Hodags on Parade, generated lots of traffic to our downtown. It generated even more pride in our Hodag. The November auction generated $15,000 toward continuing programs like the hanging flower baskets, maintenance of the free parking lots and the coordination of a full calendar of events.
2. The October Trick or Treating event is fast becoming the most popular local event for children in Rhinelander! More than 1,000 children participated. Sixty-three downtown businesses handed out candy-19 more than last year’s record high! The crazy costumes worn by children AND adults AND store owners were the best treats of all! More than 24,000 people enjoyed Downtown’s street festivals, parades and retail events last year-also up from 2010.
3. Downtown Works provided financial and technical assistance to four successful downtown projects this year. The three-way partner program facilitates start-ups, expansions and improvements for existing or new businesses in downtown. This year the program was credited with statewide recognition.
4. Downtown was heard and seen by thousands through a concerted branding strategy. A major media campaign, “Shop, play, dine, stay-Downtown Rhinelander – it’s all here” kicked off in 2011. Billboard, radio, television and print all played a part. A measurement survey was also conducted.
5. Private and public reinvestment in downtown nearly quadrupled from a year ago. Much credit goes to Heck Capital Advisors and their new building on Anderson Street!
6. Downtown welcomed several new businesses! Trig’s Ace Hardware opened in October; so did Bridal Gallerie, an established business in Rhinelander for 20 years. Apparel, specialty retail and crafts continue to be our recruiting targets.
7. Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District #8 was created, and is one of those key building blocks for our downtown’s future. This is solid groundwork for redevelopment of the waterfront and the downtown commercial business district.
8. ArtStart is a part of our downtown! It was a year of planning and laying groundwork. The enthusiasm and energy of the ArtStart group is contagious, and we saw it in action at several events like the Fourth of July parade, Redikulus Dae, holiday open house weekend and ArtStart’s very own Over the Top Prom event and gift shop! Watch for the first art exhibition in 2012 at the Federal Building!
9. Hosting a Smithsonian Exhibit in Downtown was a key notable in 2011! “Key Ingredients America by Food” featured local food exhibits and programs. Another new event that will grow in 2012 is the Wednesday Downtown Market! Last summer the Hodag Farmers’ Market expanded to a mid-week market in our downtown for eight weeks.
10. Visible changes in downtown were made possible by the numerous volunteers who gave a helping hand: daily watering of the flower baskets, weeding, planting flowers, trees and shrubs and changing the trash bins each and every week! Thanks to the banner committee and the city crews who installed the beautiful banners onto the historic poles.
11. The award-winning retail event, Taste of Chocolate, awarded Kelly Clements $1,000 of downtown bucks prize! Kelly held the “Snickers Golden Ticket” thanks to Printpack Incorporated, sponsor of the popular event. This year’s event takes on some fun outdoors with a snow sculpting competition! Mark your calendar for Friday, Feb. 10, for Taste of Chocolate 2012! Purchase a Snickers Golden Ticket with a chance to win $1,000 in downtown bucks!
If you would like a copy of the Downtown Rhinelander, Inc. annual report with a more comprehensive outline of highlights and successes, please call or send an email.
Looking forward, our board and committees have our sights set on some ambitious plans for the new year. Your ideas and energies are always welcome! Won’t you consider joining us?
At this time next year, let’s share 12 more successes. See you downtown!
Sue Bessert is available at the Rhinelander Main Street office, located at 21A S. Brown St. Call her at (715) 362-7374, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.