As of this writing, petitions to dissolve our Business Improvement District (BID), as well as those rescinding many initial signatures, have been turned into the city. Although it was very close, and although many DRI supporters worked hard to present factual information to petition signers to rescind their signatures, it appears that valid signatures representing approximately 53 percent of our total BID evaluation will be presented to the Rhinelander City Council on Monday evening, April 13. At that point the city has no other option than to dissolve the current BID, and with that action, eliminate around 50 percent of the current funding for Downtown Rhinelander, Inc.
What should be kept in mind is that while a few large property owners were able to move the petition signers to gain the needed 50 percent-plus evaluation level, only around 35 percent of BID property owners signed the petition; thus 65 percent wanted to retain the BID.
It is important to note that although the current BID will most likely be dissolved, it will have no direct bearing on the existence of DRI, which is a separate 501c not-for-profit corporation. DRI has current resources to operate for another 12-18 months. In addition, DRI has fundraising events and potential grant application options to add to its current resource base.
However, eliminating 50 percent of its funding will certainly mean that DRI will operate differently in the future. This may include eliminating some services and some downtown events or other programs currently supported by DRI.
What will the future look like for our downtown organization? Some options include:
1. Forming a new BID made up of downtown businesses who truly value an organization that supports and promotes businesses in our historic downtown.
2. Organizing our DRI as a membership organization. (More than half of the Wisconsin Main Street cities don’t have a BID.)
3. Looking for financial support from donors or municipalities who appreciate and understand that, by supporting Rhinelander’s historic downtown, they are investing in the future of our entire city and region.
4. Other (your DRI Board looks for your ideas here).
In the meantime, we are moving forward with plans to recruit new businesses to Rhinelander, to create a “grow your own” strategy through our downtown business incubator, and continuing technical and promotional support for downtown businesses.
With a new executive team, a new board and a new strategic plan, you can be certain that DRI will be continuing to work effectively and efficiently to create a vibrant and economically viable historic downtown for the Rhinelander community.
Reprinted with permission from What’s Up With Downtown? Newsletter.