Columbus has released a comprehensive plan for the Hilltop neighborhood. The nearly 200-page document lays out the history of the area, recent data on everything from employment to schools and housing to crime, and a 27-point plan for its future.
The plan’s goal is to accentuate the strengths of the Hilltop - like its location - while also tackling some of the big systemic issues faced by the area.
“Drug use is really what fuels some of the other issues that we see in the neighborhood, which is plagued by vacant and abandoned housing, violent crime, prostitution,” says Nick Bankston, the city’s project manager for neighborhood transformation strategies.
Overdose deaths are 2.5 times higher in the Hilltop than the county average. The average lifespan in the Hilltop is nearly 10 years younger, and the infant mortality rate is 30% higher than the rest of Franklin County.
Along with crime and health, the plan focuses on employment, business and transportation, among other areas.
Bankston says the plan prioritizes some of the upstream challenges that impact downstream prospects. For example, stable and affordable housing can help people be more upwardly mobile.
“Affordibility doesn’t have to mean a lower quality or a lower standard,” he says. “And so how do we as a community come up with initiatives, incentives, and opportunities to create that kind of a market?"
Along with housing, the plan aims to strengthen educational opportunities for the next generation of Hilltop residents.
“Some of the biggest things that will be coming out of the plan is a $14 million investment in a new pre-K center on the Hilltop that would serve approximately 240 children,” he says.
There is no budget dedicated to this plan: Bankston explains the individual projects are being funded by partnerships. For example, the Department of Education is funding the new pre-K center, the Department of Neighborhoods is investing in street cleanups, and the Department of Development is working on building more sidewalks.
Envision Hilltop is a long-term project, and Bankston says the city hopes for more partnerships as it develops.
While it’s too soon to say what the neighborhood thinks of the plan itself, Bankston says it was based on community input during 12 public meetings and 30 events over the last 18 months.
“Some of the feedback that we got from residents is that they felt their voices were heard and the process was transparent,” Bankston says.
Some of the action items in the report are already in the works, like tackling illegal dumping, while others have yet to launch. Bankston says the process will take time and hard work.
“The Hilltop has a proud history and legacy in Columbus,” he says. “And it didn’t get this way overnight, and things aren’t going to change overnight.”
The city is holding a public meeting Tuesday night to discuss the details of the plan.