Davenport Street business owners unhappy with Streetscape work limiting access
Construction blamed for loss of revenue
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A couple of business owners along Davenport Street in downtown Rhinelander expressed their frustrations at Monday’s City Council meeting over how they say the Streetscape construction project has negatively affected them.
Aaron Schultz, owner of Big Daddy’s bar at 21 W. Davenport St., said he came to speak to council members to “come to an understanding of the need for more effective communication between the city and the merchants affected by this and future projects in the city.”
During the construction work this summer, Schultz said “for four weeks I had a massive trip hazard in the front of my business that made people avoid my establishment.”
“The affect on sales this summer has been significant,” he said. “For the month of June I was down 29 percent. July I was down 27.5 percent. August I was down 50 percent.”
Given the construction currently going on along Davenport Street, Schultz said “I am forecasting October sales to be down significantly, compared to a year ago, until the project is finished.”
He said it was “kind of an insult” for the construction to have gotten as far off the schedule as it did, compared to what the city communicated to him.
The suggestions Schultz made to improve the communication included having the city “communicate any changes to the plans that had been given and the reasons for those changes, good, bad or otherwise.”
Jeanne Pederson, who opened the Festive Frog at 41 W. Davenport St. in July 2015, said the block on Davenport between Brown and Stevens Street “turned out to be a very large problem block” during the construction.
“I had the misfortune of having a business on that block,” she said.
Noting that she lost “a tremendous amount of business in the 6-7 months this project has been going on,” Pederson asked for $600-$800 in restitution from the city.
“That is not even remotely close to what I have lost in business, but it would be helpful to me,” she said. “I am sorry that I opened, frankly, because this has turned into a disaster for me….I have given and given and given to this community, and now I’m asking for this community to help me to save my business.”
City public works director Tim Kingman said the Streetscape construction schedule had changed because of the weather. He also noted the project intended to proceed without compensation for the loss of business.
“It was largely because it was the best value available to the city for the grant and loan finance altogether,” Kingman said. “So, even though you folks were in a zone of the project that required a lot more time and a lot more effort – we did our best to get through this, and we’re still working on getting through this – and yet our plans did not address payment for loss of business.”
Council president George Kirby said he was sorry about Pederson’s loss of business during the construction, but he noted that city taxpayers shouldn’t have to “relieve your burden at this time.”
Council members, who took no action after hearing from Pederson and Schultz, had also received a letter from John Stoehr of John’s Jewelry Repair and Appraisal at 115 W. Davenport St. about customers having difficulty getting to his business with the downtown construction work.
Work on the Streetscape project is slated to wrap later this month for 2016 before resuming next spring with the final paving.