By Andrea Cordle
According to Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, “The Hilltop is back!”
He made this statement at an event on July 14 to announce the Hilltop RISE initiative, held at the Hilltop Bank Block on West Broad Street. The historic location was chosen to highlight the mixed-use space that now houses Roosevelt Coffee Roasters and Kennedy Used Books.
“The Hilltop’s best days are still ahead,” said Ginther.
Hilltop RISE is a new, non-profit economic community development corporation. It will focus on development in the West Broad Street and Sullivant Avenue commercial corridors.
“The Hilltop lags behind when it comes to economic development,” said Betty Jaynes, the chairwoman of Hilltop RISE and a 40-year Hilltop resident.
Jaynes said the community development corporation would work to revitalize the area by converting already available commercial space into retail or small business space.
Jaynes said she used restricted COVID-19 time to research and launch this grassroots development corporation. City leaders, business owners, and community advocates all worked together to form Hilltop RISE (Reconnect, Impact, Strengthen, Empower).
“This is the starting gate,” said Jaynes. “There is a lot of work to do.”
According to the Hilltop RISE website, West Broad Street has over 956,000 square feet of ground level commercial space that spans 92 acres. Sullivant Avenue has more than one million square feet of non-residential space.
This was appealing to Preston Steele, who is a local business owner and is on the executive committee of the community development corporation.
“The Hilltop had all the criteria we were looking for,” he said.
Steele acquired property in the Hilltop Bank Block in 2019.
“It has affordable commercial space,” said Steele. “Why not the Hilltop?”
Local businessman John Rush, who is also vice chairman of the RISE board, said they are seeking fair chance employers.
“We want to grow and transform, but not at the expense of pushing people out,” said Rush.
Nick Bankston, a Columbus city council member, said he believes this plan will revitalize the community because the plan was developed by people in the community.
“This neighborhood will continue to thrive,” said the councilman. “I am excited about the future of the westside.”
In June, city council approved an ordinance to provide $100,000 in funding to support the administration costs for the startup of the Hilltop RISE economic community development corporation. This funding will also cover the cost of hiring an executive director.
According to Jaynes, this will be a full-time position. The executive director will work with the city, county, COTA, and other groups and agencies to drive economic development on the commercial corridors.
Jaynes said the Hilltop RISE board has formed a search committee to develop a detailed job description and begin recruiting for an executive director.
For additional information on the community development corporation, visit HilltopRISE.org.