By Noell Wolfgram Evans
What is a community plan?
Kerry Reeds, the director of urban design and planning at the Columbus-based Neighborhood Design Center describes it as, “A framework for the future. It’s the physical and social investments of an area that relies on guidance from residents and stakeholders.”
These were welcome words to those in attendance at the Westgate Neighbors Association (WNA) meeting, held Aug. 28. Members, and friends, of the WNA gathered to hear, among other topics, Reeds provide some insight into the Hilltop Community Plan that the Design Center has been tasked by the city with creating.
Reeds explained that the plan would initially focus on a specific area of the Hilltop, one that has been carefully chosen to be as representative of the community as possible. This focus area consists of a space roughly bordered by ValleyView, I-70, Sullivant, and an area just to the west of Hague Avenue up through Roys. A concurrent retail study will be happening at the same time.
All summer Reeds and his team have been attending community events, asking residents what they like about the area, where they see potential for growth, and also immediate needs. It’s the first in a four-part process that will culminate in a presentation to the community of a draft plan in late summer or early-fall of 2019.
The next phase will involve a series of open meetings, which Reeds invited residents to attend. He also prompted those in attendance to visit EnvisionHilltop.com to track the progress of the plan and submit feedback. Of particular interest to the audience was an interactive map that allows users to zoom in on locations within the focus area and add comments and suggestions.
“Columbus in the post-war era built an incredible amount of suburbia,” Reeds said. “People are now looking at housing differently though. They are imagining themselves living in a more walkable, amenity rich environment and I think there is a good start to that in the Hilltop.”
WNA President Betty Jaynes was optimistic about the plan and said, “I think the time is now for the Hilltop.”
Jaynes also shared an update on a recent city of Columbus announcement that developers in the Hilltop would be eligible for a 100 percent, 15-year tax abatement on multi- and single-family homes.
The Hilltop is also going to be a testing ground for new police technology that is intended to help solve crimes faster. A to-be-determined three square mile area will be bordered with strategically placed sensors. Those sensors can be used to locate the exact place a gun was fired from in less than 90 seconds, Jaynes shared.
Reeds seemed to sum up all of these developments in one word – perception.
“Part of this is a perception issue,” he said. “A lot of us look around and see great things around here but you need to look at this as an outside investor. They look at hard numbers and we have to help them get over that hump.”