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Wanted in The Hilltop: Creative, Young Professionals

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Could the Hilltop be hip? Yes, and that’s the image it needs to project to spur an economic turnaround, says Cleve Ricksecker, a veteran of urban revitalization efforts in Columbus.

Ricksecker will share his thoughts on the Hilltop’s potential in a talk Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. at the J. Ashburn Jr. Youth Center, 85 Clarendon Ave. The free event is presented by the Hilltop Business Association and the Westgate Neighbors Association.

“If you’re 30 or 35 and a creative person, you want to move to a place that’s hip or will be hip soon,” said Ricksecker, executive director of downtown’s Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District. “The Hilltop needs to signal there’s a new wave.”

That’s what the Short North did 30 years ago when it started Gallery Hop, an event that today draws thousands of people each month. Back then, Ricksecker had just moved to a run-down Victorian Village.

The Hilltop will redevelop faster than Victorian Village and the Short North, says Ricksecker, who led the Short North Business Association for several years. “When the Short North was developing, people didn’t ‘get’ urban living,” he said. “Today, people understand urban living.”

Young adults are looking for a neighborhood, Ricksecker said. They don’t want to live in Powell and they can’t afford Victorian Village or Clintonville. That makes the Hilltop a strong market for first-time homebuyers.

“No one yet thinks of the Hilltop or Westgate as being at all hip, yet it’s the hottest neighborhood in Columbus right now,” he said. “What happens in Westgate will spread and stimulate the neighborhoods east of Hague. Commuting patterns will help this process.”

Cleve’s advice to the Hilltop and Westgate: Use the Internet to signal a new image. Also, appeal to artists to create live-work space and entrepreneurs to create a coffee shop or “a good, funky gathering place.”

“Pay attention to your best demographic – young people in their 20s and 30s,” he said. “That will be your best source for revitalization. It’s inevitable that things will change for the better. What the Hilltop can do is speed up the process.”

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