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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

First Weber-Make a Smooth move

home : news : city news May 28, 2016

7/18/2014 7:30:00 AM
Panel readies streetscape plan for public meeting

Marcus Nesemann

The Rhinelander Downtown Economic and Brown Street Streetscape Study Special Committee has finalized the draft plan for the streetscape project.

The special committee completed its work Wednesday and will present the draft to the public July 23 at the Hext Theatre.

A point of contention has been the future of parking on Brown Street.

There are four options and the committee has been tasked with determining which would be the best fit for both the community and the business owners on Brown Street.

Option one would create parallel parking spots on each side of Brown Street. It would widen the sidewalks by about 20 feet, but there would be 61 parking spaces available compared to the 107 available now.

Option two would make Brown Street a one-way street with angled parking on each side.

That option would create five more parking spaces and sidewalks would be increased approximately 9 inches.

Option three would keep the street design the same and option four would see Brown Street offer both angled and parallel parking, with 85 spaces created and sidewalks widened by about 10 inches.

The first public meeting on the streetscape plan was held in April and the majority of those in attendance at that meeting preferred either option one (23 votes) or two (12 votes).

A survey was also sent out to Brown Street business owners asking for their input. The results of that survey showed that option two (11 votes), option one (eight votes) and option three (seven votes) were the most popular.

The plan that will be presented to the public for input, however, will be option four. Option four received 10 total votes - two from the business survey and eight at the first public meeting.

"It really wasn't that conclusive. 39 percent were for angled with one-way (traffic), 28 percent for parallel (on both sides of the street) and 25 percent to leave it the existing way," City Administrator Blaine Oborn said. "The design committee's recommendation was to go with (parallel on both sides)."

Downtown Rhinelander Inc. (DRI) board president Mark Gutteter, who also owns Rhinelander Cafe & Pub, looked at the results from a different perspective, however.

"I would like to say that the initial survey does show that 64 percent of the respondents (voted for) angled parking or using the existing angled parking - 64 percent of the respondents are preferring one of those two methods of configuring our downtown - so when you say it's not a conclusive survey, there does seem to be a preference toward angled parking over parallel and toward retaining parking over losing a significant parking spaces," he said.

"As a building owner, a business owner and the president of DRI and a supporter of the hard work of the design committee, ... unofficially I took a poll of a number of building owners and to a tee, every single building owner values the parking spaces that they have in front of their buildings as it is today."

The group also discussed whether to bring plans showing parallel parking on boths sides before the public or one of the other options.

The one-way street option would not work, DRI Executive Director Maggie Steffen said.

"The problem with a one-way street is the fact that the way that you'd logically want to come in is not the way (the city's emergency services) wants it to happen," she said.

Committee member and alderman Mark Pelletier said the group should consider having parallel parking on the west side of the street and angled on the east side.

"I like parallel on one side and angled on the other," he said. "The problem is, if you've got somebody who is uncomfortable with parallel parking, they're going to come down main street and you know what they're going to do? They're going to just going to drive away. This way, at least you've got an opportunity if you don't like parallel parking to go down and turn around and come to the other side to park."

Gutteter supported Pelletier's suggestion.

"That would make sense because both of those blocks (on the west side) have rear parking lots for people to use," he said. "The concept of angled parking on one side and parallel on the other gets you the middle ground. It gets you wider sidewalks."

Steffen also liked that option.

"We'd get the sidewalks with five feet of additional space," she said.

With a consensus reached, the draft plan will now be presented to the public.

"This is not the plan plan, this is a proposal for the public to give us feedback," Steffen said.

The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. July 23 at the Hext Theatre.

Marcus Nesemann may be reached at

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Article comment by: Dan Butkus

What is this fixation Rhinelander has on parking? Again, I point to the nearly empty lots I saw Saturday, both on Courtney and Pelham. At the risk of upsetting my friends who are business owners on Brown Street, and a few who are on the DRI Committee, parking is what keeps people downtown walking and browsing, but it is not the be-all-end-all. Presentable and occupied storefronts that are pedestrian and shopper friendly are what draw people. And I am referring to both the Brown Street entrances as well as the Courtney side. An attractive visual appearance is what makes people want to stop and check out businesses.

To Mr. Gutteter's comments on angled parking, great, you surveyed business owners. Of course they want as many spaces as they can fit in front of their building. But for the average shopper, like me, I find angle parking annoying. Yes, I can get into a spot, but more times than not, I cannot see backing up because of an SUV or truck with tinted windows parked next to me. And people rarely stop to let you out. With parking assist vehicles, parallel parking is easier than ever. And if all else fails, take driver's ed over again to lean how to parallel park. It's really not that hard.

Lastly, I would shop and stroll around Rhinelander when I'm up visiting, if only there was a reason to do so. With the exception of The Brick, and before that Bugsy's, and a couple other places, nothing draws me to rest of that two or three block stretch. Many shops close up by early. Growing up in the community, our family always said that Rhinelander rolled up its sidewalks early and downtown looked deserted, with the exception of the few taverns.

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