top of page


Business & Economy

Guiding Principle

The Hilltop will support and sustain a variety of businesses to create a foundation of amenities and economic activity for existing residents and visitors.


Resident Priorities

  1. Trash and litter

  2. Local businesses

  3. Weak market conditions

  4. Streetscape

  5. Customer access

Statement of Need

The historic Hilltop business district retains a sense of place, indicating a past when establishments thrived. Attention should be given to revitalizing this district, with consideration to supporting fledgling businesses and employing residents. Inviting customers into the district to visit and shop will require substantial investment and coordination to overcome obstacles of stigma and physical access.

Goal 10: Reinforce and strengthen key gateways into the neighborhood.


Public perception of the Hilltop is shaped largely by what visitors see through their windshields along West Broad and Sullivant while driving through the neighborhood. Improving these key gateways into the Hilltop focus area could have a major impact on the overall reputation and self-confidence of the community.

Action Steps


Offer creative programming for vacant and/or underutilized sites and spaces. Public events, public art, or temporary installations on vacant and/or underutilized sites can help activate spaces and allow onlookers to reimagine the possibilities. An organization should be funded that focuses on building community and placemaking through programs and physical interventions in the Hilltop focus area.


Encourage exterior building improvements. While some funding is available through the existing Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization (NCR) program, the effectiveness of the program along Broad Street in the focus area is hard to see. The program should be re-evaluated and better funded to allow for immediate physical improvements to structures in the historic business district along West Broad Street, as well as along Sullivant Avenue.


Beautify streets, eliminate litter, create public art and wayfinding campaign. In addition to improving buildings, the cleanliness of the neighborhood should be a major priority. Residents perennially elevated litter to the top of their concerns. Programs to routinely clean litter should be integrated with environmental improvements like public art and wayfinding. The Hilltop focus area needs coordinated art and signage to increase its sense of place and community.


Ease customer access to the Hilltop through route improvements and navigation changes. Despite the presence of West Broad Street, the Hilltop can still feel isolated. Railroad tracks, the river, and highways along the northern boundary are significant separations between the Hilltop and the more prosperous area along US-33 near Grandview Avenue. Consideration should be given to extending Grandview Avenue south to Broad Street.


 Stronger sense of place 

 Easier access to the area 

 Improved building conditions 

Goal 11: Use existing contributing structures and encourage new development in historic business district at catalyst sites.


The Hilltop retains a sense of place where its thriving business district once was. Capitalizing on that sense of place will be critical to revitalizing the mixed-use corridor in the near future.

Action Steps


Increase resources to support adaptive re-use of existing buildings, from acquisition to build-out. Consider increasing funding for and reforming the Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization (NCR) program to help preserve and renovate historic structures in the Hilltop business district. Utilize tax benefits to encourage adaptive re-use and rehabilitation.


Institute a commercial vacancy tax to bring buildings back into use and discourage blight. Whether reserving for future use or speculating on future land values, owners holding onto vacant land and buildings are actively harming the Hilltop community. This negative impact should be quantified and mitigated through a commercial vacancy tax. A growing policy in U.S. cities, the tax would help the city recoup extra resources often demanded by vacant properties. Read more on the next page.


Continue improving streetscapes along historic business corridors to attract businesses and customers. Deteriorating sidewalk conditions can detract from the overall pedestrian experience and discourage retail activity. Attention to detail should be given to controlling weeds, maintaining sidewalks and ramps, and providing high-quality amenities like lampposts, benches, trash cans, and street trees. An organization should be formed to care for these important details, including keeping the commercial districts free of litter and illegal signs (e.g., “We Buy Houses”) attached to telephone poles and other objects.


Existing city code allows the City of Columbus to declare eligible properties as a nuisance, then levy a daily fine. The city could consider applying this fee more regularly to offending property owners.


 Decreased commercial vacancy 

 Improved streetscape 

Goal 12: Increase local employment options that pay a living wage.


Connecting Hilltop residents to living-wage jobs is critical to community stability. As much as possible, employers should be incentivized to locate near the Hilltop focus area—not on the urban periphery.

Action Steps


Draw new employers to the neighborhood. Investments in streetscape, infrastructure, and regular maintenance and beautification of the Hilltop business districts will increase appeal for businesses to locate there. Capitalizing on light industrial land along Fisher Road and re-purposing underutilized big-box stores along West Broad, the city and county should work together to attract buyers with strong employment potential for living wages.


Increase opportunities for residents to be employed at large employers in the area. Work with major employers (e.g., ODOT, ODPS, Twin Valley, CCS) to target hiring outreach to increase the number of Hilltop residents working in the neighborhood. The city or other organizations could support local advertising of jobs through postcard mailings and other localized outreach through neighborhood institutions. The city could consider partially abating the income taxes of employees living in targeted zip codes within city limits for at least five years, for example.


Improve business development services for entrepreneurs. In addition to the funding for conceptual design and architectural improvements to building facades, the NCR program could offer more personalized small business development for entrepreneurs. In lieu of a formal small business center, the NCR program could be a resource for entrepreneurs to compose business plans, identify appropriate financing, and locate available space in the Hilltop focus area. Services could extend to graphic design, web development, and environmental graphics and signage. Giving business owners one point of contact for all of these services can streamline and simplify the process.


Existing city code allows the City of Columbus to declare eligible properties as a nuisance, then levy a daily fine. The city could consider applying this fee more regularly to offending property owners.


 Increased wages 

 More local jobs 


 Case Study #1 

A commercial vacancy tax can help handle blight and raise funds for important community services.

Even in cities with booming economies, storefront vacancies are impacting neighborhoods. In an effort to reduce commercial vacancies in urban areas, some cities have pursued policies that levy higher tax rates on vacant or blighted parcels to incentivize owners to bring structures back on-line.

In Washington, D.C., the taxation model raises the normal commercial property tax rate from between $1.65 and $1.85 per $100 in assessed value to $5 per $100 when the property is vacant. Property considered blighted is taxed at $10 per $100 of assessed value.1 This approach offers one tier for vacancy and another for blighted properties. 

In San Francisco, one proposal seeks to include residential units in addition to commercial property. Landlords with three or more units that are vacant for six months would also pay $250 per unit per day until the unit is leased.2 In nearby Oakland, voters approved a parcel tax of $6,000 per year on empty lots and empty commercial and residential buildings. Empty condominiums and ground-floor storefronts will be taxed at $3,000 per year. The tax is expected to raise $10 million annually for homeless services and cleaning up blight.

Proponents of the vacancy tax claim that some landlords are intentionally keeping units vacant by setting prices above market value, holding out for tenants willing to pay their price tag. The tax, they argue, could encourage property owners to bring asking rents down to more reasonable levels. The tax may also incentivize property owners to sell structures or lots that they no longer use or intend to return to active use.

Sources: Brian Charles. “Cities Now Use Taxes to Fight Blight. Is It Working?” Governing Magazine. May 14, 2018.

Trisha Thadani. “Vacancy Glut in S.F. Could Spur Tax on Empty Storefronts.” San Francisco Chronicle. Jan. 23, 2019.


 Case Study #2 

A coordinated wayfinding campaign can have a major impact on how people navigate and perceive their neighborhood.

In 2012, a Walk [Your City] campaign was launched in Raleigh, North Carolina to promote walkability and increase civic health and safety. The project involved posting 27 corrugated plastic signs on light poles at three different intersections, each indicating how long it would take to walk to nearby destinations, with an option to download pedestrian-friendly directions.1 Not only do these wayfinding signs help allay misconceptions about the actual distance between various local destinations, but they can also encourage passersby to explore someplace new—they may discover, for example, that they are only a twelve-minute walk from an unexplored park or recreation facility. This simple effort was a tremendous success—it not only led to changes in public policy, but also started new conversations about community health and the future of the city. There have since been numerous spin-offs in cities around the world, and in 2015 the Knight Foundation funded the development of the Walk [Your City] website, which includes a downloadable walkability toolkit visitors can use to customize these well-tested signs in order to launch similar small-scale interventions in their own communities.  
Given that half of all trips taken in the U.S. are less than three miles, there’s plenty of opportunity for folks to walk or bike (rather than drive) to reach useful destinations nearby. Often the perception of distance is greater than the physical distance itself. Clear, simple signage reminding neighbors that “it’s not too far” to walk to places they visit every day is one way to break down that misperception and get more feet on the street.2


Visionary Concepts


Start small, but start today. Low-cost interventions can help bolster local businesses and improve perception of the Hilltop by creating memorable community destinations.

Broad Street handles nearly 20,000 vehicles daily. This level of traffic is a fantastic asset for businesses, but getting people to stop on the Hilltop rather than just pass through can be a challenge. Physical improvements to a site can help entice drivers to stop and try something new—like a taco stand. At the southwest corner of Broad and Wheatland, the El Huarache Veloz taco stand has been a fixture since 2014. Currently El Huarache operates out of a trailer parked in a corner lot with a curb cut along Wheatland (a one-way street southbound). Improvements to the site would help create a sense of identity and recognition for El Huarache, provide seasonal customer seating, and raise the profile of the restaurant. Suggested improvements include colorful themed graphics for the trailer, festoon lighting, picnic tables, benches, and landscaping. Similar treatments should be considered for businesses along Sullivant Avenue.


Acknowledge the lack of connection between the Hilltop and Franklinton to Columbus’s more prosperous Northwest side.

The Hilltop focus area is cut off from the Dublin Road corridor to the north by the Scioto River, railroad tracks, and interstate highways. So although the Hilltop is remarkably close geographically, circuitous access contributes to a feeling of disconnectedness and isolation. The extension of Grandview Avenue south to Broad Street was discussed in the 1908 plan of Columbus and has been re-proposed by neighborhood leaders in the intervening century. In 1986, Hilltop officials brought attention to the issue, and the Franklin County engineer at the time said, “I could see where it would have quite a bit of function.”[1] A few years later, legislative leaders and local advocates noted the extension would open the Hilltop to the Northwest Side and help “create the necessary synergism and population density to support the extension.” [2]. From the Souder Avenue bridge in Franklinton to the Grandview Avenue bridge, the distance is about 2 miles. From Grandview Avenue north to the next river crossing at W. 5th Avenue, the distance is 2.6 miles. Generally speaking, other parts of the city have more frequent river-crossings, which allows for easier access overall. Consideration should be given to improving north–south access into the Hilltop community.

Sources: Kevin Kehres, Columbus Dispatch, December 24, 1986.

Alan D. Miller, Columbus Dispatch. July 15, 1992.

Acknowledge the lack of connection between the Hilltop and Franklinton to Columbus’s more prosperous Northwest side.


Preliminary visioning shows that a combination of office, residential, and retail would activate the site—with direct visibility and access from I-70. Concepts are purely visionary and would be contingent upon a variety of land transfers and agreements among multiple parties.

Rhodes Park is over 50 acres of land between the state office complex and I-70 that is leased by the City of Columbus from the State of Ohio. The site has nearly half-mile of frontage along I-70 and over 1,000 feet of frontage along W. Broad Street, offering tremendous visibility and access. It is less than 1 mile from the developing Grandview Crossing at the intersection of Dublin Road and Grandview Avenue, and 1.5 miles from the redeveloped Grandview Yard project. Thus, the Rhodes Park site has the potential to become a catalyst to spur economic revitalization, building on the presence of thousands of existing jobs at the state complex. The site is uniquely suited for transit-oriented development as the population of Central Ohio continues to grow, increasing density and high-capacity transit on key corridors like Broad Street as recommended by the Insight2050 Corridor Study. Development should be mixed-use including office, retail, and residential, and public open space should be retained where the Sullivant Trace Trail provides access to Glenview and Holton Parks as well as the Camp Chase Trail. An agreement with the site’s developer could result in improved parkland nearby, or more expansive measures like a local hiring effort or site amenities open to the public.


Celebrate Broad Street by bringing buildings and pedestrian activity up to the right-of-way at the crest of the hill.

Excluding Rhodes Park, the State of Ohio owns about 200 acres north of Broad Street. Much of this land is occupied by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Along the north side of West Broad Street there is approximately 1,000 feet of developable frontage between Lechner and Whitethorne Avenues, with a site depth of about 125 feet between West Broad and the existing surface parking lot. Buildings constructed along West Broad would align with the urban form in the Hilltop’s historic commercial core immediately to the west.  The addition of contributing structures would serve as an eastern gateway to the Hilltop, allow space for businesses to provide important amenities not currently available on the Hilltop to both residents and employees, and eliminate the inappropriate suburban character that exists today.


Guiding Principle

Hilltop infrastructure will embrace a multi-modal transportation network that is responsive to the needs of the community today and in the future. 


Resident Priorities

  1. Resident engagement/socialization

  2. Access for elderly and disabled

  3. Infrastructure for walking or biking

  4. Bus routes and shelters

  5. Recreational amenities

Statement of Need

The historic Hilltop business district retains a sense of place, indicating a past when establishments thrived. Attention should be given to revitalizing this district, with consideration to supporting fledgling businesses and employing residents. Inviting customers into the district to visit and shop will require substantial investment and coordination to overcome obstacles of stigma and physical access.

Goal 13: Prioritize active and shared mobility.


In the Hilltop focus area, 18% of households do not have access to a vehicle—and 44% have access to just one. The built environment should reflect the daily experiences of Hilltop residents. For many, that means walking, biking, or taking the bus. Concrete steps to improve safety for non-motorists will help save lives and better support residents.

Action Steps


Adjust crosswalk signal timing, improve signage, and invest in potential conflict points. Broad Street is very wide at points, which makes it difficult and more dangerous for people to cross. To assist, generous countdowns automated with traffic lights could be standard at each signalized intersection, along with leading pedestrian intervals at certain intersections to give people a head start when crossing. When a light turns green, the walk signal should automatically initiate in order to put people on equal footing with vehicles and create a more seamless walking experience. Where multiple collisions have occurred, stronger interventions should be considered.


Improve sidewalk and pedestrian amenities. Creating a street that is as friendly to people walking as it is to people driving is important for equity and safety. People deserve to be safe no matter how they are traveling, but especially if they are vulnerable road users. Sidewalk condition is critical to ensuring a safe environment for people walking. Crumbling sidewalks may encourage people to walk in the street, especially when pushing strollers or using wheelchairs. An abundance of driveway access points into properties increases the potential crossing of vehicles with pedestrians, so driveway access should be limited in number and width to minimize that interaction. The sidewalk zone should have a buffer from the street whenever possible to create real and perceived safety for people walking close to fast-moving vehicles. This includes placing shelters, benches, and trash cans at transit stops.


Create and then connect people to shared mobility options to reduce car dependence. Explore integrated mobility solutions that allow people to seamlessly transition from one mode to another. Paying for COTA, an e-scooter, and a ride-hailing service should be possible on the same cash-based platform. Improvements to first-mile, last-mile transportation should be considered, especially for those with different ability levels. The Pivot mobile application, being developed by Smart Columbus in partnership with COTA, is one example that can leverage integrated payment and trip planning; adoption of Pivot should be encouraged on the Hilltop.


 Less pedestrian-involved collisions 

 More people walking and biking 

1. The Age-Friendly Columbus Plan from 2017 also recommended increasing crossing times at crosswalks near activity hubs on the Hilltop.

Goal 14: Address hazardous driver behavior.


The most recent speed readings for Hilltop streets show motorists consistently exceed the posted speed limit. Through improved built environment and enforcement, streets can be made significantly safer for Hilltop residents.

Action Steps


Reduce vehicle speeds. At Broad and Burgess, the 85th percentile speed is 39mph, with a posted speed limit of 35. This means 85% of vehicles are traveling at or below 39mph in free-flowing conditions. If hit by a vehicle traveling 40mph, a person has an 80% chance of dying. In a neighborhood with low car ownership, this figure is a reminder of the danger faced by people navigating sidewalks. Consideration should be given to lowering and standardizing the speed limit throughout urban corridors. Signal timing should be adjusted to ensure drivers would continually encounter green lights when traveling at or just below the posted speed limit.

» In Ohio, local speed limits cannot simply be changed by municipalities. Under ORC 4511.21, the State of Ohio governs road speed based on certain characteristics. A change in state law could allow the City of Columbus to reduce the posted speed limit to help create a neighborhood atmosphere along West Broad Street.


Ensure consistent stop control and convert one-way streets where feasible. Throughout the focus area, stop signs are irregularly placed at intersections. At some, stop signs are present only for east–west streets, while at others (along the same street) signs exist only for the north–south streets. This irregularity is unpredictable and can cause driver confusion. Consideration should be given to standardizing sign placement and standardizing residential streets as two-way. Increasing the number of four-way stops could also increase safety and predictability for all road users. Irregular street flow also contributes to confusion. A mix of one- and two-way streets increases travel distances and complicates access. 


Consider tactical urbanism resources for citizens. When roads are dangerous, people deserve options to protect themselves. In certain cases, introducing tactical elements like hand-held flags or high-visibility crosswalks can increase safety and encourage community interaction. At key intersections, orange flags could be offered for children and other pedestrians to wave as they cross the street—reminding drivers to yield until walkers have safely crossed.


 Less pedestrian-involved collisions 

 More people walking and biking 

Goal 15: Improve access to employment centers.


Many Hilltop residents are employed along the western outerbelt and downtown. Transportation solutions for residents to access employment without vehicles should be a hybrid approach, inclusive of transit and shared mobility.

Action Steps


Encourage employers to locate near high-frequency transit lines. Too often, major increases in jobs occur in areas inaccessible to transit. Future tax abatements should hinge on a comprehensive understanding of employment, including transportation. Priority should be given to companies adding jobs in transit-accessible regions. 


Incentivize re-use of underutilized big-box centers on the West Side. With acres and acres of underutilized retail and light manufacturing space and infrastructure, the Westland area is ripe for redevelopment. Additionally, the Consumer Square West and Great Western shopping centers at Wilson and West Broad hold potential for redevelopment, especially the massive parking lots with suburban-style outparcel buildings along Broad.


Fill in transportation access gaps through employer-paid services. For employment centers outside of COTA’s reach, consideration should be given to funding micro-transit solutions that can connect Hilltop area residents to living-wage jobs. Employers who receive tax abatements to locate in places inaccessible to transit and out of reach to employees should offer transportation as a benefit—not a paid service—to workers.


An example of employer-paid transportation is right here in Columbus. At CoverMyMeds, a Columbus healthcare technology firm, employees within a certain distance of downtown are eligible to take a micro-transit shuttle provided by the company Share. Learn more in the Case Studies section below.


 Less pedestrian-involved collisions 

 More people walking and biking 


 Case Study #1 

In Everett, Massachusetts, a bus-only lane improved traffic flow and demonstrated the low-cost effectiveness of tactical transit lanes.

Tactical Transit Lanes (TTLs) can be a cheap, fast, and effective way to smooth commutes for public transit users and drivers alike. A TTL is a bus-only lane in dense, congested areas intended to speed up transit without major capital improvements.1 They can be as short as a block or as long as several miles. A quick pilot can prove a project’s value to the public with minimal resources and effort. Everett, Massachusetts, is a primary example of this method. With the mayor’s support, Everett planned a one-week trial of a one-mile bus lane on the city’s busiest arterial, using simple cones to demarcate the bus lane that displaced parking.2 A part-time operation (5—9 a.m.) meant that the lanes were in place only a few hours a day. Corridors with TTLs for buses saw 24% fewer crashes. Benefits were immediately noticeable: Bus trip times were cut by more than 20% at peak hours, and drivers shaved a few minutes off of their commutes, too. Notably, the pilot was opened with no prior public outreach or meetings. Instead, as city planner Jay Monty says, “the pilot was the process.” He acknowledged that they received far more input and data from the pilot’s first five days than they would have from holding evening meetings that “would have drawn out critics, not beneficiaries...” The initial media coverage of the pilot predicted “disaster,” but coverage after the lanes opened turned generally positive. The one-week pilot was extended to nine months and became permanent in September 2017. The City has since added transit signal priority, bus bulb-outs, level boarding, and bus stop access improvements. Monty notes that the political risk of a quick pilot should not be underestimated; it took political courage from the mayor to support the pilot. However, it has paid off: “It’s nice to be a leader sometimes…that goes a long way with residents,” Monty says. 

Sources: Best Practices In Implementing Tactical Transit Lanes. UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies. February 2019.


 Case Study #2 

Some employers see the benefit of providing reliable transportation to workers, both as a perk and as a way to ensure employees are on time.

CoverMyMeds, a healthcare technology company with more than 1,000 employees, is offering free rides for employees to and from work with the micro-transit company Share. The three-month program began in July 2019 for employees living within 7.5 miles of downtown Columbus, where the company is headquartered. About 30% of CoverMyMeds employees expressed interest in such a service; workers using the service schedule their rides using a mobile app. Four of the 10 largest employers in Columbus—including Huntington Bank and State Auto Insurance—are using the Share service.

In Dublin, Ohio, more than 20 employers, including Cardinal Health, Stanley Steemer, and OCLC, are participating in a similar program giving employees rides to work from COTA bus stops. By scheduling rides 24 hours in advance on the Share app, Dublin employees can catch a ride from bus stops in Dublin to nearly two dozen employers, with more expected to be added. The workforce shuttle is a pilot program that is currently free to Dublin employers and employees.

In downtown Columbus, the Cpass program has enrolled more than 422 companies. Around 30,000 workers are eligible. Property owners in the downtown special improvement district financed the program that provides free bus passes to downtown workers. “It definitely has helped our associates in their ability to get to and from work,” said the manager of the Hotel LeVeque, which employs a little more than 100. “It is a hiring incentive. Not all the downtown areas have that incentive.”

Sources: Katy Smith. CoverMyMeds Offers Its Downtown Employees Free Commutes. Columbus Dispatch. August 13, 2019.

Taijuan Moorman. Dublin Partners with Microtransit Startup SHARE for a More Mobile Workforce. Columbus Underground. August 6, 2019.
Mark Ferenchik. More Downtown Workers Taking the Bus Because of Cpass. Columbus Dispatch. August 14, 2019. 

Visionary Concepts

Start small, but start today. Low-cost interventions can help bolster local businesses and improve perception of the Hilltop by creating memorable community destinations.


Increasing the capacity, convenience, and efficiency of transportation along the West Broad Street corridor will be a key component to the long-term revitalization of the Hilltop community, especially considering future growth in Central Ohio. This illustration depicts a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) concept in the focus area.


Identified as a regional thoroughfare and noted as a corridor capable of supporting substantial redevelopment in the Insight 2050 report, West Broad Street is well-positioned for high-capacity transit, such as BRT. This configuration would use the center two lanes as dedicated BRT lanes with platform-level boarding at permanent stations located in the median at signalized intersections. One travel and one non-peak parking lane would remain in each direction for most of the corridor, except at key intersections or where dedicated turn lanes exist. 


Reposition walking, biking, and public transportation as viable, respected, and safe options.

Given the Hilltop’s comparably low rates of car ownership, accommodations should be made to make walking easier and safer. Creating a fair and equitable street experience across travel modes is imperative, and people navigating streets by foot or wheelchair are currently at a significant disadvantage. At the intersection of Broad and Hague, pedestrians who request to cross the street by pressing the activation button are allotted 7 seconds to begin crossing the street, followed by a 13-second countdown timer to get across about 60 feet of exposed pavement—or 6 lanes of traffic. This is a harrowing experience for anyone, let alone those with mobility challenges, including children and seniors. Walking in the Hilltop focus area should be safer and easier for the high number of individuals who walk, bike, and use public transportation to get around. Currently, the physical environment is designed to accommodate motor vehicle convenience and speed at the expense of other road users. Ticketing and enforcement also play a role to ensure pedestrians are respected by drivers. The following reforms should be implemented in the focus area:

  • People, like cars, should be automatically recognized at signals.

  • In traffic signal timing, pedestrian time should be prioritized.

  • On green lights, pedestrians should have enough crossing time so that (1) people arriving on the phase have a chance to cross rather than having to wait for the next phase, and (2) slower-moving people have enough time to cross.

  • A “leading interval” for pedestrians would let them enter crosswalks on the “walk” signal before cars advance on a green light, increasing visibility.

  • Pedestrian phases should be automatic, even if no actuator is pushed. Instead, the actuator should make the pedestrian phase come sooner.

  • Speeding on Broad and Sullivant should be aggressively addressed.

In Baltimore, a mobile van offers medication-assisted treatment options for people addicted to opioids.

Safety & Crime

Guiding Principle

The Hilltop will be a safe, secure, and inviting community for residents.


Resident Priorities

  1. Violent crime

  2. Surveillance and responsiveness

  3. Proactive policing

  4. Speeding vehicles

  5. Inadequate sidewalks

Statement of Need

Violent crime is one of the most distressing issues plaguing the Hilltop focus area. Violence is traumatic for residents and casts a long shadow over the neighborhood throughout Central Ohio. Combating gun violence, domestic abuse, drug trafficking, and other criminal activity is an immense challenge. Strategies should focus on investing in people and working to prevent demand for illicit activities.

Goal 16: Focus on crime prevention by investing in people.


Keeping families and individuals stable will reduce the number of people experiencing desperation—which can fuel criminal behavior. Inclusive opportunities for personal growth and approaches to deter illegal activities should be coupled with targeted enforcement that focuses on remediation and education, not just incarceration.

Action Steps


Offer emergency support services for families and individuals. Aligning social services and support networks to create stability for families can help individuals avoid desperate circumstances. Food security, housing stability, living-wage employment, and educational attainment are measures to deter crime. Supporting holistic human development should be at the center of community safety strategies. For nonviolent offenses, consideration should be given to diversion strategies that offer productive and rehabilitative opportunities instead of jail time, especially to preserve family stability.


Fund intensive street outreach for sex workers and human trafficking victims. Grassroots outreach organizations can be effective in building relationships with people involved in sex work—including human trafficking victims. Funds should be directed to organizations that interface with people on the street, offer harm-reduction measures, and connect them to needed resources. Specialized transitional housing in or near the focus area for people escaping sex work should be a high priority for future investment. 


Increase penalties for and enforcement of drug trafficking offenses. Focusing on cutting off the source of drugs rather than punishing the end users, those chemically addicted to the substances, can help end the cycle of drug sales and use on the Hilltop. The city attorney should continue efforts to target nuisance residences for drug trafficking and other offenses, like weapons sales. Sentences for distribution should exceed those for possession.


 Increased family stability 

 Decreased prostitution 

 Reduced drug trafficking 

Goal 17: Address physical environment attributes that contribute to criminal activity.


A coordinated approach to address street lighting, vacant properties, and illegal dumping should result in a well-lit neighborhood that is free of litter, with secured vacant properties that are less likely to invite crime [1].

Action Steps


Improve and increase street, alley, and porch lighting. A heat map of streetlight coverage in the Hilltop focus area shows strong lighting along Broad, with weaker coverage around Wicklow and Richardson. Efforts to achieve a higher standard of street lighting throughout the focus area should be undertaken. Other methods of improving lighting include alley lighting and residential porch lighting. A pilot porch light program could credit residents’ electric bills for installation of automatic lights that turn on at night.



Ensure vacant properties are secured. Vacant and abandoned parcels should be routinely inspected to ensure they are secure and maintained to certain standards as part of a mandatory vacant property registry. Abandoned properties can be crime magnets, and ensuring they are secured is a matter of public health and safety.


Reform illegal dumping enforcement. Illegal dumping is a chronic and pervasive problem throughout the Hilltop. Efforts are underway to clean up the neighborhood by offering a tip hotline for illegal dumping, reforming the eviction process, and regulating development permits more closely. See more details in the Visionary Concepts section below.


The Comprehensive Safety Strategy is an approach to address crime using a combination of targeted efforts throughout Columbus. Learn more at


 Less illegal dumping 

 Decreased prostitution 

1. Ralph B. Taylor. Physical Environment and Crime. U.S. Department of Justice. National Institute of Justice. 1996.

Goal 18: Expand proactive and community policing techniques.


Informal interactions between police and residents should be encouraged, and one method is through continued bike patrols. Having police as neighbors could also improve the reputation of law enforcement in the Hilltop.

Action Steps


Continue and expand bike patrols. Bike patrols have received positive reviews from many Hilltop residents. Continuing the bike patrols will build meaningful relationships between police and residents. Interaction outside of negative circumstances or confrontations is important to establishing trust and communication, which can lead to more reports of crime.


Incentivize public safety personnel to live in Columbus and on the Hilltop. Integrating police and fire personnel into neighborhoods can be encouraged through a residential incentive program. Not a residency requirement, the program could offer downpayment assistance to personnel who live in select zip codes for a certain amount of time. The program could increase investment in housing in target neighborhoods and help improve relations by making sure police are truly part of the neighborhoods they are patrolling.


Continue and expand john school and increase penalties for repeat offenders. Sex work thrives due to customer demand. Reducing demand through education and increased penalties for johns can diminish the presence of sex work. 


CATCH Court offers a pathway out of prostitution. The Changing Actions To Change Habits (CATCH) program has changed lives and spurred the creation of seven additional specialized courts in Ohio. The program funds housing and food for participants—things they might otherwise get from their trafficker—and treatment for trauma and addiction. In return, they are eligible for records expungement. Participants must submit to drug testing and show up in court weekly for two years. Unfortunately, less than 1 in 4 of the women enrolled currently make it to graduation.


 More Hilltop neighbors 

 Reduced demand for sex work 

1. Paige Pfleger. “A Pioneering Ohio Courtroom Helps Trafficking Victims Find Hope.” WOSU, NPR News. October 7, 2019.


 Case Study 

In Chattanooga, shared services for early childhood education facilities throughout the city improve efficiency and ultimately prepare more children for success.

Investing in child development pays off in the long run. Research shows how critical literacy is to successful adulthood. Across the U.S., 85% of court-involved juveniles are functionally illiterate, and 60% of the nation’s inmates are illiterate. To help prepare children for self-sufficient and well-adjusted adult lives, early childhood education is crucial. Opening an Early Childhood Education (ECE) center can be expensive and complicated, from capital costs to navigating regulatory requirements. One model in Chattanooga, Tennessee helps relieve some of that pressure from the childcare providers by consolidating back-end office operations. The Chambliss Center for Children struck a shared service agreement with early childcare education providers that were struggling because they were serving low income, at-risk children and could not charge fees high enough to sustain their operation. Now administrative staff at the Center handle certain consolidated operations and management services for 13 community-based ECE programs. Each site maintains independence with individual nonprofit status and a separate bank account. Sites have the same benefits, employment policies, collective training and curriculum, and directors are shared among them. Is there a role for city governments to play in a shared services alliance? As cities work to improve the quality of ECE, this model could provide an opportunity for cities to work more closely with community providers to achieve the shared goal of high-quality early care for all children. Cities could promote this type of model by working directly with ECE providers to set up an alliance providing expertise and technical assistance, or possibly seed money to launch an alliance. A city could, for example, enter into an agreement with providers to make bulk purchases or serve as host to a training program for teachers from multiple ECE providers within the community.

Sources: Christopher Zoukis. “Basic Literacy A Crucial Tool To Stem School To Prison Pipeline.“ HuffPost. May, 11, 2017.


 Research Shows 

A handful of policies can have a major impact on crime rates. Reducing violence can be achieved through a diverse package of reforms that have worked in other cities.

Academic studies reveal multiple tactics that can have an immediate impact on the occurrence of violent crime in a neighborhood. Generally, strategies seek to affect “natural surveillance, access control, target hardening, and signs of territoriality.” The notable Broken Windows Theory suggests that a blighted urban environment disintegrates any feelings of mutual regard and signals that illegal behavior will be tolerated. A 2018 review of studies shows that the strongest interventions to control crime are housing and blight remediation. Evidence consistently shows that providing affordable scattered-site housing through rehabilitation or new construction has “reduced rates of homicide, assault, and violent crime in surrounding areas.” Other techniques, with less evidence, include reducing the availability of alcohol sales, reducing  connectivity of the street network, and increasing greenery around homes. Other studies have shown a link between “alcohol outlet density and assaults, including intimate partner violence.”

The Urban Institute has also compiled a list of strategies to reduce crime based on their own research. These include connecting returning prisoners to stable housing, helping ex-offenders find secure living-wage employment, and making use of drug courts that combine judicial supervision with substance abuse treatment. Another complication of strategies from the Washington Post highlights the importance of lead abatement, foster care, and after-school sports. The effectiveness of increasing alcohol taxes is also highlighted: “results suggest that doubling the alcohol tax would reduce alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35%, traffic crash deaths by 11%, violence by 2%, and crime by 1.4%.”

Sources: Michelle Kondo, et al. Neighborhood Interventions to Reduce Violence. Annual Review of Public Health. 2018. 39:253-71.

Dylan Matthews. “Lead Abatement, Alcohol Taxes and 10 Other Ways to Reduce the Crime Rate Without Annoying the NRA.” Washington Post. April 22, 2013.

Visionary Concepts


Raise the standard for litter and garbage management on the Hilltop by cracking down on illegal dumping and aligning policies to prevent frequent occurrence.

Focused on prevention, enforcement, and education, a 2019 initiative of Columbus’s Department of Public Service cleaned up 4,110 tons of illegally dumped trash, including 43 tons of tires. These crews are solely dedicated to collecting illegal dumping across the city. Additionally, more than 1,000 three-hundred-gallon trash containers, which are notorious magnets for illegal dumping, have been replaced by 4,184 ninety-gallon containers. In attempts to hold illegal dumpers accountable, 80 cameras were installed at dumping hot spots.

In the Hilltop area, these same strategies are being enacted. Just this year, over 1,133 tons of litter and illegally dumped material has been collected on the Hilltop. Additional ideas for addressing continued issues include requiring property owners to demonstrate how they will dispose of construction material when receiving permits for renovation or demolition of structures, as well as when filing for eviction. Proof of disposal method could be required to move the eviction process into the set-out stage, ensuring that any items and debris will be properly handled. Funds could also be allocated for a pilot program to employ teens or adults to pick up litter and debris, potentially through a CDC or civic organization.


Leverage the location of the Sullivant Avenue police substation to build something transformational—
a community-oriented safety center for everyone.

In Baltimore, a mobile van offers medication-assisted treatment options for people addicted to opioids.

The police substation at 2070 Sullivant Avenue was built in 1965, and currently offers no opportunity for community-police interaction. The one-story building, at just over 2,000 square feet, serves as an unstaffed facility for officers and sits on almost a half-acre of land at the northeast corner of Sullivant and Belvidere. Reconstructing the substation would bring a myriad of positive benefits to the Hilltop focus area. A new public safety facility could integrate community activities, like offering space for school and youth liaisons, support for seniors, and community service or block watch teams. A welcoming, open, and community-oriented facility could help improve the relationship between the neighborhood and police, as well as encourage increased reporting of crimes. Locating a few community attractions, like a small skate park, a graffiti wall, or a little free library with a small garden and seating area, on or near the substation could increase activity in the area. Encouraging people to come to the site when they are not experiencing emergencies can help build trust and a sense of normalcy to police interactions. A new structure could improve on the current design by offering transparency through a glass exterior and a street presence along Sullivant through eliminating the 35-foot setback.

Sources: Leigh Christy. “The Police Station of the Future.” Development Magazine. Spring 2016. NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.

Jen Kinney. Designing a Police Station That Serves the Community. Next City. July 15, 2016.

bottom of page