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In order to know what the most pressing needs are in the Hilltop focus area, we must first understand the current realities. Through a combination of U.S. Census Bureau data, proprietary research databases, public records requests, and data shared by various nonprofit organizations and institutions, this section illustrates a depth of information and statistics that describe the existing conditions in the focus area. Data is organized into the following areas:

  • Employment and income

  • Health and wellness

  • Education

  • Safety and crime

  • Business and commercial

  • Mobility

  • Recreation

  • Mixed-income housing

  • Homeownership

  • Housing quality

  • Housing affordability

  • Housing instability

  • Subsidized housing

  • Real estate conditions

  • Housing market

  • Retail opportunities

Focus Area Highlights


The focus area has a lower median household income than the city and county, at $30,000 compared to $56,000 for Franklin County. Adjacent neighborhoods such as Westgate and Georgian Heights show a higher median household income than the focus area, except for the South Franklinton area. Unemployment rates from the U.S. Census Bureau show a relatively wide range throughout the focus area. Some block groups show a healthy unemployment rate of less than 2%, while others exceed 10%. On average, the area shows a 6.6% unemployment rate—higher than the city and county averages, although not significantly. 

The Hilltop has historically been a working-class neighborhood, and that is still true today. Light industry and logistics are still present along Fisher Road to the northwest of the Hilltop focus area, providing a large employment base for residents. Very few Hilltop residents work in their immediate neighborhood, since job opportunities are quite limited and the types of jobs in the focus area are mismatched for most residents. The Ohio Department of Transportation on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, for example, mostly employs residents from other areas of Central Ohio.

Median Household Income, 2017


Hilltop Focus Area


Greater Hilltop


Franklin County

Unemployment Rate, 2017


Hilltop Focus Area


City of Columbus


Franklin County

Monthly Earnings. Data shows 6,833 primary job holders in the Hilltop focus area in 2015, with over half of those jobs providing more than $3,333/month for income. 


Inflow/Outflow. According to figures from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) survey, there are just 84 employees working in the Hilltop focus area who also live in the Hilltop focus area. This potentially demonstrates a mismatch between employment opportunities in the focus area and the skills of focus area residents for available jobs. LEHD data shows that 2,440 employees in the focus area live outside of the area, likely represented primarily by larger employers like the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Columbus Developmental Center, and Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare Hospital.


Of the approximately 2,500 people employed in the Hilltop but living outside of the area, 50% do not live within the City of Columbus. In fact, 28% of Hilltop employees do not live in Franklin County. This indicates that area employers draw people from regional destinations, not the immediate area.


Jobs by Industry: The primary industries employing focus area residents are shown in the illustration below. Many are employed in social assistance and retail.


+6%  Construction

+3%  Retail trade

+3%  Arts, hospitality/food service

+2%  Manufacturing

+1%  Transport/warehouse/utilities


-7%  Education, health, social service

-4%  Finance, insurance, real estate

-2%  Public administration

-1%  Information

Compared to Franklin County, Hilltop residents work in these industries...

According to figures from the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) survey, there are just 84 employees working in the Hilltop focus area who also live in the Hilltop focus area. This potentially demonstrates a mismatch between employment opportunities in the focus area and the skills of focus area residents for available jobs. LEHD data shows that 2,440 employees in the focus area live outside of the area, likely represented primarily by larger employers like the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Department of Public Safety, Columbus Developmental Center, and Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare Hospital.

Of the approximately 2,500 people employed in the Hilltop but living outside of the area, 50% do not live within the City of Columbus. In fact, 28% of Hilltop employees do not live in Franklin County. This indicates that area employers draw people from regional destinations, not the immediate area.

Other Income & Finance. Residents not in the labor force due to a variety of reasons may rely on other sources of income such as social security, public assistance, and retirement funds. Thirty percent of focus area households have Social Security Income, while only 5% have income from interest, dividends, or rental units.

30%  Social Security Income                                                                          

15%  Supplemental Security Income*                            

12%  Retirement Income                   

10%  Public Assistance Income  

  5%  Interest, Dividends, or Net Rental Income

*Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal income program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income. SSI provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

Labor Force Participation Rate. Though employment conditions are dynamic and ACS Census data often trails by 12 to 18 months, it is still significant that based on focus area census tracts, 40% of residents age 25–44 were not in the labor force in 2017, compared to only 14% of this cohort not in the labor force citywide.


Residents of the Hilltop focus area are less likely to have insurance, more likely to suffer from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, and have a shorter life expectancy than county averages. A combination of factors contribute to these reduced health outcomes.

Financial Access & Health. The Hilltop focus area has only two financial institutions, both located to the far southwest. A Huntington Bank at Central and Mound (1436 W. Mound) is the only full-service bank, and nearby is a check cashing facility (1397 W. Mound). A 2017 study by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimated that 5.5% of the Columbus region was “unbanked,” meaning without access to a checking or savings account at an institution. Without a bank account, employees cannot receive pay via direct deposit—making them reliant upon either paper checks or payroll cards, which can have fees for inactivity, balance inquiries, and other actions. According to the FDIC survey, reasons for being unbanked include inability to maintain minimum account balances, a desire for privacy, a lack of trust in banks, and high account fees [1]. Data from ESRI shows that the average amount in the cash accounts of Hilltop residents is $2,018, while the value of stocks is $2,107. The average retirement plan value is just under $11,000.

1. Chris Moon. The Problems of Being Unbanked. Value Penguin. Nov. 28, 2016.

  • The infant mortality rate for the Hilltop is more than 20% higher than the county average.

  • Babies born in the Hilltop are more likely to be premature and have lower birthweight than the county average

  • More than twice as many babies are born to teen mothers in the Hilltop area compared to the county, despite a decline for both over the last 5 years.

  • Mothers who are pregnant in the Hilltop are nearly 3 times more likely to smoke during their pregnancy compared to the Franklin County average.


Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) operates the Hilltop Primary Care Center at 2857 W. Broad, near the intersection with Hague Avenue. Walk-in access for same-day service is offered for about 11 hours weekly, Monday through Friday, 12:45pm to 3pm. Outside of those hours, only pre-scheduled patients may be seen. NCH also has mobile care locations throughout the area.


Comparative Health Figures. The Hilltop area shows reduced health quality when compared to Franklin County. The Epidemiology Division of Columbus Public Health provided the following data for 2015 to 2017, reflecting the Hilltop area as represented by zip codes 43204 and 43223 as compared to Franklin County averages.

  • Accident deaths in the Hilltop area occur about twice as often

  • Cancer deaths occur three times as often

  • Rates of death from heart disease and cancer are about 30% higher

  • Life expectancy for those living in the Hilltop area is about 8 years less


Additional figures below show a high rate of uninsured people and a high rate of emergency department visits. Health facilities are present in the Hilltop focus area, but the quality of the facilities was not evaluated.

Life Expectancy





Franklin County

Drug Poisoning





Franklin County


Opioid Epidemic. Central Ohio is currently struggling with an opioid epidemic, and the Hilltop has been especially affected. Between 2003 and 2017, the number of deaths from unintentional drug overdoses increased 584% in Franklin County. That number further increased in 2018, when over 450 residents died from drug overdoses. As shown in the map below, Narcan use in 2018 was very high in the Hilltop area. Narcan is used to treat narcotic overdoses, so it is deployed most often in areas with the highest levels of drug abuse. It can reverse overdoses caused by a range of opioids such as heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl by restoring breathing and blocking the effects of the drug on the brain. In addition to being carried by firefighters and police officers, it is also available without a prescription at many pharmacies and clinics. 


1. Columbus Public Health, Office of Epidemiology. July 2019.

Overdose deaths by Substance, 2018

Franklin County











  • Unintentional drug deaths increased from 2013-17 in both the Hilltop area and the county.

  • In the Hilltop area, unintentional drug deaths increased 63% in that 5 year period.

  • In 2017, the rate of unintentional drug deaths was more than 2.5 times higher in the Hilltop area than in Franklin County [1].


Over 25% of the doses delivered by firefighters in 2015 were delivered in just two precincts, one of which was Precinct 19 in the Hilltop. This prompted police officers to begin carrying Narcan in their cruisers in mid-2016. According to 2016–2018 data, the rate of Narcan use in the Hilltop is 3.9% when compared to the population. This rate is below that of the Franklinton and South Side areas, but still high. Among those who died from an overdose in 2017, the most common zip codes of residence (not overdose location) were 43207, 43223, 43204, 43211, and 43232—both Hilltop zip codes are included here in this list. The opioid crisis is complex and multi-faceted, involving more than simply the end drug user. Between 2006 and 2012, Cardinal Health alone shipped more than 10 billion opioid pills—and in 2008 the Drug Enforcement Agency brought a case against the company for shipping million of doses without alerting the agency. The case was settled by Cardinal Health paying a fine of $34 million and promising to improve monitoring.*

* Theodore Decker. "Birds of a feather flocked to the money in opioid epidemic." Columbus Dispatch. July 30, 2019.

Community Health. The health of the community can be measured in more ways than physical well-being. Asking if the Hilltop is a healthy community requires more answers than statistics about diseases and death. A community can demonstrate health through environmental conditions, through social interconnectedness, and economic mobility. Trees, for example, have the ability to improve health by increasing shade, cooling neighborhoods, reducing energy bills, and reduce particulate pollution in the air—not to mention emotional benefits [1]. The public street tree canopy in the Hilltop has room for improvement, but generally appears adequate according to recent city data. 


Another aspect of healthy neighborhoods is a robust social life, part of which can be worship. Records show 101 parcels in the Hilltop owned by religious groups. The map illustrates that most of these are between Broad and Sullivant in the focus area.



Exempt Church Property Owners, May 2019

According to data from the Franklin County Auditor, there are 101 tax-exempt parcels that show 24 listed owners religious-related names.

  • Seventh-Day Adventists, Allegheny West Conference

  • Christian Holiness Church
    Apostolic Assembly of The Faith In Christ Jesus 

  • Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ

  • Community Christian Church
    First Church of God

  • First Penecostal Philadelphia Church

  • First United Bretheren In Christ Church of Columbus

  • Fountain of Salvation Christian Churches

  • Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

  • Catholic Diocese of Columber

  • Hillcrest Baptist Church 

  • Iglesia Pentecostal Refugio de Santidad 

  • King Matt King Heather Gonzales

  • Mt Pisgah Baptist Church 

  • Mt. Zion Apostolic Holiness Church

  • Oakley Avenue Baptist Church

  • Ohio Valley District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance

  • Peace123 Investment

  • Second Community Church Of Columbus Ohio

  • St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

  • Jehovah Shammah Pentecostal Ministries

  • Veritas Community Church 

  • Westgate Evangelical United Brethren Church


Benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, are frequently utilized in the Hilltop focus area. They can be used to purchase most food items and prevent many families from going hungry. As shown in the map to the right, in most of the neighborhood, particularly the western part, close to half of households receive SNAP assistance. The highest rate is in census tract 46.2, where 43% of households receive SNAP. The average rate for Franklin County is 14%, while the average for the City of Columbus is 17%. At an average of 37% across census tracts in the Hilltop focus area, the rate of SNAP receipt in the focus area is significantly higher than county and city averages.

SNAP Receipt by Household, 2017


Hilltop Focus Area


City of Columbus


Franklin County

The high rate of SNAP use in households in the focus area shows that food insecurity is a serious problem in the community. With limited income, families are stretched to pay for transportation, housing, and food. Often, families skip meals or purchase food with low nutritional value when money is tight. The closest full-service grocery to the focus area is Aldi at the intersection of Mound Street and Central Avenue. The next closest full-service grocery is at Wilson Road and West Broad Street. To help serve families experiencing hunger, the Mid-Ohio Food Bank handles more than 66 million pounds annually and provides more than 140,000 meals every day across central and eastern Ohio. The most recent data available from the Food Bank for the Hilltop area shows most people are traveling to food distribution sites from areas nearby, and that on average a family makes between 5 and 6 visits per year.


Highland is the oldest Hilltop school building; it was remodeled in 1950 and 1996. Before West High was built in 1929, Highland temporarily served as West Junior High.

West Broad was first called Hague Avenue Elementary and in 1910 was “the most modern school” in Ohio, complete with a master clock system, automatic bells, and self-regulating heating.

West High cost $943,953, which today would be around $14 million. It was originally located in the former Starling Junior High. It is built in a New England style, featuring a cupola.

Named after famous naturalist John Burroughs, the school was originally to be named after Rev. Washington Gladden. The grounds were originally 7 acres, with a 6-acre park.

Hilltonia Middle School was built to handle rapid growth. It was state-of-the-art at the time of construction—a 1958 Dispatch columnist stated “I nearly gasped when I entered this lovely school.”

Originally built in 1952, West Mound Elementary fell into disrepair and was replaced in 2006. It cost nearly $9 million and was part of a half-billion-dollar project to open 35 new and renovated schools.

Public schools. As a historic neighborhood, the Hilltop has several architecturally significant school buildings, particularly the iconic West High School and Highland Elementary School buildings. Built in 1929, West High School was one of four new schools built with large auditoriums and was inspired by a New England town hall—complete with red brick and a cupola. The cost was about $590 per pupil in 1929. It was originally built to hold 1600 pupils; it now has only 875.

In the focus area, there are six public schools. However, the focus area intersects with the attendance boundaries of eight elementary schools, four middle schools, and two high schools. This indicates that many children are leaving the focus area to attend school.


Overall, schools serving the Hilltop focus area are poorly rated by the Ohio Department of Education, with the highest being Burroughs Elementary at a report card grade of C. 


Nonpublic Schools. In addition to the public schools in and adjacent to the focus area, there are also nonpublic educational options. St. Mary Magdalene is a Catholic elementary school on the western edge of the focus area, and Bishop Ready is a large Catholic high school just southwest. There is one charter school in the focus area.


The Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) program, administered by the Ohio Department of Education, provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools. The maximum award amount for the EdChoice voucher is $4,650 for grades K–8 and $6,000 for grades 9–12. EdChoice will pay either the scholarship amount or the private school’s actual tuition amount, whichever is less. In 2017–2018, there were 143 students in the EdChoice program from zip codes 43223 and 43204. The nonpublic schools attended by these students include:

  • St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School  

  • Bishop Ready Catholic High School

  • Grove City Christian School

  • Trinity Catholic Elementary School

  • Cypress Christian Schools

38 students​

31 students

21 students

14 students

11 students


School Feeder Patterns, Hilltop Focus Area & Greater Hilltop/Franklinton

School Enrollment Patterns. The Hilltop has a high rate of departure for Columbus City Schools (CCS) students. Departure means that CCS students are choosing to go to schools outside of the Hilltop, but still within CCS, rather than attend the CCS school they are assigned based on their home address. For example, 284 students assigned to Highland Elementary chose other CCS schools during the 2017–2018 school year. This compares to an enrollment of 340, meaning that if all “departing” students from Highland Elementary stayed at Highland Elementary, the total student population there would be 624. Out of the potential 624 students assigned to Highland, 284 are electing to go elsewhere—a rate of 45% departing students out of the potential total. Out of all CCS schools serving the focus area, 2,410 students are departing (attending schools to which they are not assigned). Out of these, 53% stay on the Greater Hilltop, while 47% leave the area altogether.*

*For a complete table of CCS departure data, see appendix.

High School Dropouts, Civilian Population Age 16-19

Compared to the county averages, the Hilltop has lower rates of high school completion and college attainment. Nearly 30% of adults in the focus area do not have a high school diploma, while just 7% of adults in the focus area have at least a bachelor’s degree. The high school dropout rate is also significantly higher, at 14.2% compared to just 3.2% for the county. These factors illustrate a population that faces multiple and persistent barriers to achieving educational outcomes.

However, some trends seem to be improving. In 2000, 36% of adults in the focus area did not graduate high school—down from 44% in 1980. Though high school completion is becoming more common in the focus area, four-year graduation rates are still significantly lower than the rest of Columbus. Moreover, the high school dropout rate is alarmingly high in certain parts of the focus area. Residents with less than a high school diploma will struggle significantly to obtain employment, especially a job that pays more than minimum wage that will allow them to support themselves and their families.

High School Dropout Rate, 2017


Hilltop Focus Area


City of Columbus


Franklin County

4-Year High School Graduation Rate, 2018


West High School


Briggs High School


Statewide Average

Dropout: Age 16-19, not high school graduate, not enrolled. Source: U.S. Census

Educational attainment varies throughout the focus area. The majority of residents do not have at least a bachelor’s degree, yet there are pockets of higher attainment. Adjacent to the focus area, Westgate is the clear outlier, with 30–40% of residents having at least a bachelor’s while the surrounding area is mostly 5–10% or less. The southernmost and northernmost parts of the Hilltop also have slightly higher educational levels than the focus area. 

As shown in the chart below, the Hilltop is behind Franklin County in educational attainment in many ways, but not all. There are some hopeful statistics, such as 23% of Hilltop residents having some college experience compared to 27% of Franklin County residents. However, the Hilltop still has significantly high numbers of residents without high school diplomas and low numbers of residents with college degrees.

educational attainment chart.jpg

People with Bachelor's Degrees, 2017


Hilltop Focus Area


City of Columbus


Franklin County


Childcare Facilities. Step Up To Quality is a five–star quality rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. All Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Preschool Special Education (PSE) programs funded by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) are mandated to participate in Step Up To Quality and are required to achieve a rating of 3, 4, or 5 to maintain state funding.

Type of Childcare Center

  • Licensed Child Care Center

  • Licensed Type B Family Home

  • ODE Licensed School Age Childcare

  • Registered Day Camp

  • ODE Licensed Preschool

# in Focus Area






The average Step-Up to Quality Rating for Hilltop focus area programs is 2.39, while the average for Franklin County is 1.13. In the focus area, 35% of the 31 programs are 5-star rated, compared to just 13% of the 1,180 programs in Franklin County.

*For a complete table of CCS departure data, see appendix.

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