Despite the potential dissolution of the Rhinelander Business Improvement District (BID) looming, Downtown Rhinelander Inc. (DRI) and DRI executive director Maggie Steffen are moving ahead. Steffen is packing up the office on Brown Street this week, preparing to move to the DRI’s new office down the block.
“We tried selling the property which was gifted to us,” she said. “But when it didn’t sell and the lease came up on this space, it’s logical to move to the property we own.”
Wednesday, April 1 is the day the fate of the BID will be determined. Opponents of the tax have gathered signatures representing more than the required 51 percent of property values to get rid of the BID. Supporters of the district have been working to have signatures rescinded, thereby keeping the additional funding in place. Regardless of the outcome, Steffen said DRI will continue its work, at least through 2015.
“Currently, the signatures represent about 37 percent of the property owners in the BID,” according to Steffen. “That tells us that the majority, or 63 percent believe that having the BID is a benefit not only for them but for the community as a whole.It comes down to taxes; nobody likes to pay them and this is one they can do something about.”
In addition to the DRI office, 30 W. Davenport will house an office/business incubator; a first for Rhinelander. It’s an idea that has been kicked around for a couple of years.
“We had been researching and looking at the feasibility and cost of having an incubator here,” Steffen said. “Oneida County, UW-Extension, Nicolet College and the DRI were working together, and while no one had been ready to move forward previously, this became a good opportunity.”
There are different types of incubators, such as retail, manufacturing, kitchen and office/business, which is what the DRI will offer.
The incubator will be in the upper level, and will consist of five separate offices which can be configured various ways, two bathrooms, a common space and separate entrance. One of the offices will be designated for short stays.
“If someone is here for a week to do business but they don’t necessarily want their clientele to come to a hotel room, they would be able to rent that space and meet people there in an office setting.”
“The beauty of an incubator is that maybe there are people who are working in their basement or garage and maybe outgrowing their home, but taking the next step is tough,” Steffen explained. “It’s a big cost, and sometimes a matter of courage. So they will be able to get into this setting at a low investment cost.”
Several entreprenuers have already contacted Steffen about being one of the first tennants in the incubator.
“There are a lot of entrepreneurs in the Northwoods,” Steffen said. “I think it will be a more in demand than what we first expected; there is definitely a need out there.”
The DRI office is expected to be open at the new location April 1.