Input sought for Hilltop area projects

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By Ris Twigg
Staff Writer

The Greater Hilltop Area Commission kicked off its Jan. 7 meeting with a variety of projects that residents have the opportunity to get involved in throughout the month of January, from park improvements to community resource centers and more.

The Recreation and Parks Committee is hosting a public meeting to brainstorm ideas for improving a section of Glenwood Park. The meeting will be held at Glenwood Recreation Center on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.

“We have a commitment from the (city’s) Recreation and Parks Department to do a master plan this spring,” said Neal Bronder, a Hilltop commissioner and chairman of the Recreation and Parks Committee. “We kind of want to huddle a little bit and come up with some ideas for what we’d want to have in that plan.”

Another project, spearheaded by commissioner Zerqa Abid, aims to create a “game zone” and resource center for youth living in the Wedgewood neighborhood. Abid is also hosting a meeting to gather public input on the center and organize a volunteer advisory board to support its operations.

“In the Wedgewood community, there is no recreation center in walking distance. Both the schools, Eakin and Wedgewood, are always overbooked,” she said during the meeting. “MY Project USA has been working there for more than three years now and our struggle has been that we do not have a place where children can drop in.”

MY Project USA, a Muslim social services organization that helps empower families and uplift the Hilltop neighborhood, is leading the initiative that hopes to give the nearly 2,000 children in the Wedgewood neighborhood a meeting and recreation space.

Abid said in addition to the game zone, the center would also offer other resources such as English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and free laundry in exchange for community service, among other things.

The property, which MY Project USA would rent, is adjacent to Eakin Elementary School and also comes with a barn that Abid said would be used to store the Hilltop Tigers’ soccer supplies and equipment.

The nonprofit organization is seeking public input on Jan. 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. The location will be emailed to those who RSVP at info@myprojectusa.org. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.

“We are looking for an advisory committee (for the center). Anybody who is willing to invest their time for these kids or for the neighborhood is more than welcome,” Abid said.

The third project that residents have an opportunity to provide input on isn’t being proposed by the commission, but by a doctor and former Hilltop Resident.

Rob Graessle worked at Grant Medical Center for the last 10 years and said he’s watched how the opiate crisis has brought on things “we’ve never seen before.” He put in his resignation in November because he’s “disappointed” by the level of effort given toward the crisis, and is proposing his own plan to build a comprehensive recovery center in the Hilltop for those struggling with addiction.

Graessle came to the commission asking for signatures on a letter in support of his proposed center that would include transportation, social services, medical services, counseling and support for employment, housing, navigating the court system and much more.

The letter would be used to by Graessle to show the state in his funding application that Hilltop residents and commissioners would want and support such a comprehensive service in the community. The center would be run as a limited-liability company and not a non-profit because it provides more flexibility to add on additional services in the future, he said.

“I’m trying to get state dollars filtered into the Hilltop to fund this,” Graessle said.

He’s applying for $1.9 million from the state of Ohio, with 70 percent going toward building renovations for a property located at 3275 Sullivant Ave. The property is currently an Asian supermarket but was formerly a medical center, Graessle explained.

Commissioners voted 7-5, with three members abstaining, to postpone a vote on signing a letter in support of Graessle’s comprehensive recovery center. The final vote to determine whether the commission will sign the letter of support is set for the Feb. 4 commission meeting at 7 p.m. Residents are encouraged to provide input and ask additional questions on the scope of the project during that time.

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