SAFETY & CRIME | BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL | MOBILITY | RECREATION
SAFETY & CRIME
Crime is a major challenge facing the Hilltop. It was the deadliest neighborhood in Columbus in 2018, with a total of 16
homicides . There are several hot spots for crime in the neighborhood, eight of which are labeled in the table to the right. Most are intersections along Sullivant Avenue, either near convenience stores or gas stations that are open late or near vacant lots or abandoned buildings. From 2015 through 2018, the most frequently reported violent crime was robbery, followed by aggravated assault, sexual assault, and homicide. Hilltop businesses and residents have seen the impact of the opioid epidemic on the streets of the neighborhood, and reflected through an increase in crime. “I see the needles everywhere. I see people staggering through the streets and talking to themselves,” one business owner said to the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s definitely something that’s not in the dark anymore.” Shoplifting and break-ins are crimes often spurred by drug use, which then impact the retail and business environment. A 2018 study of retail noted crime and safety among the top challenges to the Hilltop’s retail potential. 
1. Bethany Bruner, Columbus Dispatch."First-quarter homicide rate up slightly from 2018, nearly half cases closed." April 14, 2019.
2. Esther Honig, WOSU. "From The Hilltop, Columbus' Crime Spike Comes As No Surprise." Nov. 27, 2017.
3. Mark Ferenchik, Columbus Dispatch. “Hilltop must address crime to attract business, consultant says.“ March 16, 2018.
Individual robberies are the most commonly reported crime in the neighborhood; there were over 800 between 2015 and 2018. They appear most prevalent along Broad and Sullivant, where commercial robberies occur as well. Aggravated assaults are spread throughout the focus area. Generally, all types of violent crime are concentrated along and between Broad and Sullivant. The map above shows reported violent crimes just for 2018.
The map above shows all reported violent crimes from 2015 through 2018 using dots with a 10% transparency, creating darker spots where more crimes were reported. In the far west and southwest section of the focus area, as well as north of Broad and south of Sullivant, the concentration of violent crime is less when compared to between Broad and Sullivant.
Residential Nuisance Abatement: The Columbus City Attorney works with law enforcement to build cases against residences where crime is occurring. The cases combine criminal investigations with civil litigation to shut down nuisance properties, generally where there are recurring issues with guns, drugs, and violence. Often, drugs are being sold in homes—and sometimes there are weapons offenses as well as other types of criminal activity. The following addresses were declared a public nuisance in 2019 alone:
524 S. Oakley
674 S. Oakley
1915 W. Mound
One property had 47 police runs on complaints of overdoses, sexual assault, stolen vehicles, domestic violence, and robbery in a span of just two years.
The map below shows the high number of Hilltop residents who are involved in the justice system. This means that they have either previously been convicted of a crime, been arrested, or are currently on trial. Although there are a few small areas of concentration, it is clear that residents in all parts of the Hilltop are involved in the justice system. Many are due to drug-related arrests, as drug abuse is prevalent. An analysis of the data by area commission boundaries found that the overall judicial involvement rate for the Hilltop focus area was about 24%, the second highest of the areas analyzed. This figure adjusts for the estimated population of the commission areas, creating a rate to compare across neighborhoods.
BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL
Using 10 selected years of Columbus City Directories produced by the Polk Company, the planning team recorded all businesses along Sullivant Avenue and West Broad Street in the Hilltop focus area. Data on business listings from the year 1915 to 2005 were collected in the address ranges of 1400 to 3000 Sullivant Avenue and 1700 to 3000 West Broad Street. The location, name, and type of business were recorded for a span of nearly 100 years. Out of the 10 individual years recorded, the number of Hilltop businesses was highest in 1964, when there were 371 businesses along these two sections of roadway. By 1996, that number had decreased to 220, and it only slightly increased in 2005.
The business decline occurred primarily in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite a slight increase between 1996 and 2005, the number of businesses in 2005 was only 230—a 38% drop from 1964. This decline was much more significant in certain business categories, such as retail. The retail category encompasses a variety of “walk-in” business types, including but not limited to: shoe stores, drug stores, barber shops, food markets, and florists.
Until around the 1970s, the Hilltop supported a healthy variety and volume of businesses. Groceries/markets reached their peak in 1935 with 31, then decreased to 12 in 1964 and 7 in 1975. Other types of retail also experienced major decline, such as laundromats, which decreased from 16 in 1964 to only 6 in 1975. In that same decade, gas stations decreased from 22 to 13. The biggest drop was in physicians/healthcare practitioners, which decreased from 43 to 27—a 37% reduction in only a decade. However, a few business types did experience increases, such as specialty/hobby shops, auto sales/rentals, and churches. For a more detailed analysis and full data, click here.
All Businesses in Hilltop Focus Area
The primary commercial corridors of Broad and Sullivant in the Hilltop are home to the majority of businesses in the study area. With high traffic volumes, the potential for customers is higher along these streets than on interior residential streets. Historically, the business district of the Hilltop was along W. Broad Street, with Sullivant Avenue retaining a lower density.
Today, figures show 237 total businesses in the Hilltop focus area, employing just over 3,000 people. This brings the daytime population of the focus area to around 17,000 people. The industry with the highest number of employees in the focus area is Healthcare & Social Assistance, followed closed by Public Administration. The industry with the highest number of businesses in the focus area is Retail Trade—representing 18% of all businesses in the area.
One trend present in the Hilltop is the growth of discount retailers, or dollar stores. The focus area is home to four dollar stores—three Family Dollars and one Dollar General.
Retail at Mound & Central. Two strip retail centers at the intersection of Harrisburg Pike, W. Mound, and Central Avenue are the largest concentration of stores in the focus area—or adjacent. The area around the intersection has a variety of establishments, including: fast food restaurants, Rent-A-Center, ALDI, Sav-a-Lot (grocery), thrift store, pawn shop, cell phone stores, tax preparation, check cashing, and a gas station. The area is separated from the focus area by railroad tracks and lacks safe non-motorized access for Hilltop residents, creating barriers to access. The shopping centers are also auto-oriented, which could discourage non-motorists and put them at risk while traveling. The travel distance from the northwest corner of the focus area to this shopping area is 3.5 miles, compared to just 3 miles to Georgesville Road from the same location.
Vacant Commercial Properties. Structural vacancy plagues both the Broad and Sullivant corridors, contributing to an appearance of disinvestment and blight. A survey conducted in October 2019 shows 19 visually vacant commercial structures along West Broad Street between Roys Avenue and Whitethorne Avenue. Along Sullivant Avenue from Huron Avenue to Townsend Avenue, there were 12 visually-vacant commercial structures.
Contributing Buildings. The Planning Division of the City of Columbus worked with the Historic Preservation Officer to determine which structures in the Broad and Sullivant corridors are considered “contributing” to the fabric of the community. This designation does not prevent demolition, but it acknowledges that preserving the historic character of the Hilltop is important.
Retail Study & Market Conditions
The Hilltop USA Market Analysis: Small Business Opportunity Study (2018) analyzed the neighborhood’s potential for business development, with a specific focus on the Sullivant Avenue and West Broad Street commercial corridors. It determined that the Hilltop has great market potential due to its close proximity to downtown, large employment base, and connection to adjacent areas that are experiencing revitalization and redevelopment, such as Franklinton. The Hilltop is also highly accessible to the rest of Columbus due to its major connections along Broad Street and I-70. This study offers an in-depth analysis of the Hilltop’s contemporary business environment, demographics, mobility, and other conditions. Key recommendations are summarized below, all with the overall goal of contributing to the revitalization of these two corridors. Additionally, the report identifies and analyzes select redevelopment sites with the greatest potential, and concludes with a strategy and implementation plan composed of detailed action steps regarding policy and regulation, branding and outreach, neighborhood improvement, and other categories. Parking is also discussed, and is identified as an "issue" on Broad Street east of Hague due to constricted traffic flow and reduced on-street parking resulting from recent city changes. The study recommends that the city seek ways to provide public off-street parking that would serve multiple establishments and encourages implementation of shared parking lots and more private parking, with less on-street parking.
Existing City Revitalization Tools:
Commercial Zoning Overlay
Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization District
Neighborhood Investment District
Tax Increment Financing
Special Improvement District
Business Loan Fund and Working Capital Loan Fund
Proactive Code Enforcement
What is Leakage/Surplus Factor? Leakage/Surplus Factor is a snapshot of retail opportunity. It measures the relationship between supply and demand and ranges from +100 (total leakage) to -100 (total surplus). A positive value represents leakage of retail opportunity out of the trade area. A negative value represents a surplus of retail sales, a market where customers are drawn in from outside the trade area.
Three industry groups show retail surplus in the Hilltop: Gasoline stations, used merchandise stores, and direct selling establishments.
Nearly every industry group demonstrates leakage, with 15 experiencing "total leakage" of 100.
Retail Market Demand. Market demand information is important for potential retailers to assess when considering moving into a new location. The information allows a business to understand who its potential consumers are. Leakage in an area indicates there is unmet demand in the trade area, which could be one positive indication for a business operating in that retail sector. A surplus indicates that the needs of consumers in that specific area are being met—and exceeded.
External Retail Trends. Rapid changes in the retail sector are causing a major shift in how the built environment supports daily shopping needs throughout the United States. With the rise of online shopping and the growing dominance of regional shopping destinations, neighborhood amenities are becoming more scarce. One way to increase retail activity is to create inviting public spaces and attractive environments, encouraging shoppers to enjoy unique experiences. Restaurants and authentic food also represent an opportunity for future growth and should be capitalized on in the Hilltop.
72% of households will be non-family by 2025
66% prefer attached or small lot housing
3700% increase in web-based sales from 1999 to 2010
Market Potential Index. Using a measurement called Market Potential Index (MPI), the relative likelihood of households in a specified trade area to exhibit certain consumer behavior or purchasing patterns can be quantified. An MPI of 100 represents the U.S. average. According to MPI data, many of the top behaviors for Hilltop area consumers, like shopping at convenience stores, demonstrate represent the lack of current retail options in the neighborhood.
Built in 2014, this Family Dollar at 2383 W. Broad exemplifies the proliferation of discount merchandise stores in low-income neighborhoods across the country. The project demolished two historic buildings, and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) allowed a parking lot to be constructed along W. Broad, rather than behind the building as required by the Urban Commercial Overlay. Source: Columbus Dispatch, May 31, 2013.
Businesses in the Focus Area. According to the ReferenceUSA (Infogroup) listing of active businesses, there are more than 200 businesses in the Hilltop focus area. However, that total includes institutions like churches and even bank ATMs. After removing these categories, there are 111 business listings in the focus area according to ReferenceUSA records. Most are located along Broad Street and Sullivant Avenue, but there is a sprinkling of between Broad and Sullivant, as well as north of Broad.
The Hilltop is well-served by two major arterial east–west corridors, but lacks north–south connections. Broad Street and Sullivant Avenue are the primary roadways leading people to and through the neighborhood, along with Mound Street to the south. Mound Street is more suburban in character and lacks the commercial activity of Broad and Sullivant. Despite this, all three roadways provide relatively unhindered access eastbound to Franklinton and Downtown. But the Hilltop is significantly isolated from areas to the north—namely Grandview Heights and Fifth by Northwest. For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation is just 1 mile from McKinley Field Park in Grandview Heights, but the trip is 3.2 miles by car. The Scioto River, I-670, and I-70 create a signficant barrier between the Hilltop and affluent, amenity-rich areas to the north.
The 1908 Columbus Plan advocated for extending Grandview Avenue south to Broad Street, creating a better connection to the Hilltop and Franklinton and reducing isolation. In 1986, the proposal was brought up by Hilltop residents, but the idea has not gained traction . “Hilltop officials have been frustrated for years by the fact that motorists on Grandview Ave. can see W. Broad St., but can’t get there without traveling several side streets," said the county engineer at the time. “I could see where it would have quite a bit of function.”
The neighborhood is served by three COTA bus lines, the #10 (W. Broad), the #6 (Sullivant), and the #9 (Mound). Again, north–south service is an obstacle for transit-dependent people. The nearest north–south line is the #5, running along Wilson Road to the west, followed by the #21 along Hilliard-Rome Road. Otherwise, bus riders have to go downtown to transfer to different lines for wider connectivity.
HOW PEOPLE GET TO WORK
CAR OWNERSHIP BY HOUSEHOLD
What is 85th percentile? The speed at or below which 85% of all vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions. Traffic engineers use this to set the speed limit to promote uniform traffic flow, based on the 1964 "Solomon Curve," which instructs that speed limits should be set at what 85% of drivers think is healthy. However, the National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended to revise traditional speed-setting standards to balance 85 percentile approaches with approaches that better incorporate crash history, and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. "In general," the report states, “there is not strong evidence that the 85th percentile speed within a given traffic flow equates to the speed with the lowest crash involvement rate” (Pg. x). Source: www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Documents/SS1701.pdf
Cars are the dominant mode of transportation in the Hilltop, made easy by car-oriented infrastructure and road design. This creates barriers for the 1,084 households without access to an automobile, as well as for the 2,860 households that have access to just one vehicle. Together, this means 61% of households have no or limited car access. Despite this, the Hilltop focus area does not have complete sidewalk coverage, posing significant danger to non-drivers. Sidewalks are especially lacking south of Sullivant. Furthermore, the most recent data available shows that drivers routinely exceed posted speed limits. Drivers may feel comfortable speeding due to outdated roadway design standards and lack of law enforcement.
Sidewalk obstructions are also common in the focus area, with vehicles frequently parking on sidewalks. This makes walking more hazardous and creates pinch points which may be impassable for wheelchair users, forcing them to use the roadway rather than the sidewalk.
Non-motorists in the Hilltop focus area have experienced significant violence, injury, and death in recent years. An analysis of incidents from 2008 to 2018 shows fatalities along Sullivant Avenue and Mound Street, as well as a concentration of serious injuries along Broad and Sullivant. Serious injuries are more common along corridor streets, but also occur on interior residential streets. High motorist speeds (as shown on the previous page) contribute to the risk of pedestrian fatality, with the risk doubling between 30mph and 40mph.
Analysis of Vehicle Collision Types: The Hilltop has a lower percentage of rear end collisions than Franklin County, yet has more than twice the rate of angle collisions and substantially more parked vehicle collisions. The rate of pedestrian incidents in the focus area is 3.9%, compared to just 1.5% for the county.
In 2016 and 2017, the focus area had 82 reported pedestrian- and bicycle-involved incidents, a combined rate of 5% compared to a rate of 2.2% for Franklin County. A higher rate of non-motorists in the Hilltop focus area likely contributes to the higher incident rate.
The Hilltop focus area is home to seven public parks and two community centers. Westgate community center is also accessible to residents from its location just a half-mile outside the focus area. In total, there are around 100 acres of parkland that offer a variety of different activities—open fields with soccer goals, picnic areas and shelters, and recreation centers. Holton Park, in the northern section of the focus area, has a creek (Dry Run) running through wooded areas, in addition to a basketball court and play equipment. Wrexham Park is likely the most under-utilized park in the focus area, due to its position behind homes and adjacent to an alley. Its interior has many mature trees and a walking path. Rhodes Park, leased by the City of Columbus from the State of Ohio, has more of a regional draw than the Hilltop’s other parks. Featuring many sports fields and plenty of space for parking, Rhodes regularly hosts large tournaments that attract visitors from around Columbus. Glenwood, which has a relatively new recreation center, is a hub for neighborhood activities and offers an outdoor pool. Hilltonia Park, on the southern edge of the focus area, is adjacent to Hilltonia Middle School and includes baseball diamonds, basketball, a playground, and picnic tables.
Wrexham Park is a 2.16-acre residential park in central Hilltop, largely hidden by surrounding houses. Its two main entrances are on Wrexham; it features a circular walking trail with a small playground at its center.
Holton Park offers a nearby recreation center, an open shelter, picnic tables, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, and parking. It is accessible from Westwood Drive, which extends between Eureka & Richardson Ave.
Just south of Sullivant Ave, Hauntz Park is 5.68 acres with a large mown sports field at its center. At the southwest corner, there is a small open shelter, a variety of paved courts for basketball and hopscotch, and a playground.
Together, Glenview and Holton Parks make up 15.21 acres and connect to Rhodes Park via the Sullivant Trace Trail. Glenview is a pastoral expanse on the east side of Eureka. Homes face the park along Glenview Blvd.
The focus area has access to the Camp Chase Trail, dedicated bike lanes, and some roads that are considered "bike-friendly."
Rhodes Park is 51.1 acres used for active sports and features a running track, basketball court, various athletic fields, an ADA field for people with disabilities, playground, shelter house, picnic tables, and parking lots.
Located immediately south of Rhodes Park, Glenwood Park is 15.67 acres and features a recreation center, outdoor pool, playground, basketball and tennis courts, a large wooded area, and parking lot.
Located immediately south and west of the Hilltonia Middle School, Hilltonia Park is 11.5-acres and features a large, open lawn that accommodates both baseball and football, an open shelter, and playground.
Access to Park Space. While nearby park access is prevalent throughout most of the Hilltop, there is a sizable portion of the neighborhood that lacks it. Green space and playgrounds at public schools are not formally considered parks, and are excluded from the park access calculation. However, Columbus City Schools playgrounds are sometimes informally used by residents and are not typically secured to prevent access. Other green spaces exist as well, like wide grass medians in a few spots in the neighborhood. One particularly scenic location is the grassy area near Holton Park, where Dry Run Creek flows through and houses overlook the meadow from the hillside.
In the map above, each park was drawn with a buffer of 1/2 mile to approximate an average 10-minute walk. Thus the areas in green and within the grey dotted border are within about a 10-minute walk to a public park. Based on an analysis of the “gap” area within the red-dotted focus area, there are an estimated 4,500 individuals living more than a 10-minute walk from a public park. Additional, or expanded, park facilities could help improve access for the thousands of residents within this gap area.
Opened in 1975, Holton Recreation Center cost $235,000 to build ($1.1 million in 2019). It was temporarily closed in 2009 to reduce an $83 million budget shortfall.
The original Glenwood Recreation Center opened in 1963, but by the 2000s it was deteriorating. It was demolished and rebuilt in 2016 at a cost of over $7 million. It features a gym, ceramics/arts rooms, fitness, and more.
Community Centers & Amenities. The Hilltop
is fortunate to be served by a number of
recreational and community facilities. In the focus area, there are two City of Columbus community centers—Glenwood and Holton. Nearby, Westgate Community Center offers additional activities and hours. As shown in the chart below, there are facilities open every day of the week, for many hours of the day—even on Sunday. This means there is high accessibility for residents, and that working parents who need activities for children
have at least some options nearby. These facilities offer a variety of different programs, classes, and amenities, such as childcare, weight rooms, pottery classes, and highly valuable services such as English as a Second Language classes. Having places for children to go that are supervised and offer structured recreation and learning activities
is crucial and can offer a safe place for youth. The facilities considered for the chart below include the following:
Holton Recreation Center
Glenwood Recreation Center
Westgate Recreation Center
Boys & Girls Club—J. Ashburn
Greater Hilltop Shalom Zone
Columbus Metropolitan Library—Hilltop Branch
There are additional facilities in the focus area that have programming for youth, but only locations with open drop-in hours are listed here.
Built in 1959, the Hilltop YMCA cost $277,016 to construct ($2.7 million in 2019). Throughout the 1970s it was the weekly meeting place of the Hilltop Kiwanis before it became open to women in 1987.