Homeport Joins ‘Hilltop’ Revitalization

Construction On 39 Homes Slated To Start In June

Homeport, in partnership with fellow not for profit Homes on the Hill, will soon begin construction on 39 homes inside the history rich “Hilltop” community of Columbus, replacing properties long neglected and unsafe.

The joint venture “Hilltop Homes II” scattered site project is moving ahead following significant outreach to area residents ready for improvements. The end goal: providing quality, affordable homes in an area with colorful roots.

“We are helping to revitalize a neighborhood,” said Maude Hill, Homeport’s Vice President of Government and Community Relations.

Beginning in June, over a year’s period, vacant lots and a handful of rundown homes with bright red “NO TRESPASSING” signs will be replaced by modern, energy-efficient three-bedroom homes with detached garages and front porches.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing of the homes requires that they be rented for 15 years before being eligible for purchase. Income for a family of four cannot exceed 60 percent of the median income for Columbus, which was $42,000 in 2014.

Lane Newcome, an attorney and chair of The Greater Hilltop Area Commission, said West Side residents he has spoken to have taken an “overall positive view of the project” and were pleased their concerns were heard about protecting the independent look of the area’s housing.

“It is exciting to have someone come into the community and really work with the community,” Newcome said.

The Hilltop has an extraordinary history. Originally inhabited by Indians, the land was developed for farming beginning in the late 1700s with the deeding of property to area pioneer Lucas Sullivant.

Home development began with the construction of The National Road or Route 40 in the 1830s, a stretch known today as West Broad Street. The Civil War brought training and staging camps for Union soldiers, and Camp Chase, a Confederate prisoners’ camp that eventually became a cemetery.

The lots Homeport and Homes on the Hill will rebuild are between, north to south, West Broad Street and Freemont Street, Logan Street, Pervience Street and Hope Place, and east to west, Midland and Harris avenues.

Homeport’s construction partner, Homes on the Hill, a community development corporation, has 22 years history of buying, rehabilitating and selling homes on the city’s West Side. It initiated the joint venture with Homeport, a non-profit with 28 years history of building affordable homes in Central Ohio.

Most of the properties in Hilltop Homes II were purchased from Columbus Land Bank and Franklin County Land Bank.

“Their resources were critical to assembling a portfolio of sites that promotes the greatest impact possible on the neighborhood,” said George Tabit, Homeport Vice President for Real Estate Development. Remaining properties were acquired with the help of a real estate agent.

Starbucks And Homeport Join Forces With Job Fair

Specialty Coffee Company Looks To Affordable Home Leader For Employees

Starbucks is teaming up with Central Ohio affordable home leader Homeport in an attempt to diversify its employment base in the region.

Hiring at Starbucks often begins online. But on May 21, several local representatives of Starbucks will hold a job fair at a Homeport apartment community in Reynoldsburg in search of baristas and shift supervisors needed at 45 of its Central Ohio stores.

 “We often try different ways to hire for our stores but nothing quite as out of the box as this,” said Andrew Bertolino, manager of the Starbucks store in Grandview and an organizer of the initiative.  Starbucks wants to diversify its employment base in the area and provide more opportunities to individuals struggling to break into the job market.

 Over 5,500 people live in Homeport homes, half 18 and under. Sixty-three percent identify as African-American. A growing number of “new American” populations, including Somali families, are Homeport residents. The average Homeport household income is $17,148.

 The early evening job fair at Pheasant Run Apartments will be open to residents ages 16 and up from all 30 Homeport rental communities.

Amy Klaben, President/CEO of Homeport, welcomed the job fair outreach by Starbucks.

“Homeport prides itself on its holistic support of residents, be it their health, education or personal financial goals,” Klaben said. “This takes our commitment to our residents to another level, providing meaningful employment opportunities close to home. It is the first time a major employer has provided this kind of opportunity at Homeport.”

 The fact that Homeport’s communities are spread throughout the region made it a good fit for the job outreach, Bertolino said.

Morgen Wade, Homeport’s volunteer manager, said the job fair represents the latest chapter in the Starbucks-Homeport partnership that began three years ago as a volunteer initiative.

 “They have provided reading books and school supplies, both from their employee partners and customers, for our children’s school breaks and back to school drives. They have served fresh produce at free markets made available to our residents,” Wade said.

 Starbucks is committed to long-term development of the new hires, with employment possible at all levels, from first job to management.

 “There is no hard and fast number we are hoping to hire at the job fair, but we have quite a few openings,” Bertolino said. “It is definitely a different approach. Instead of being passive, we are going out into the community to get people into our workforce.”

 Individuals who work a minimum of 20 hours a week at Starbucks company-owned locations are eligible to enroll in an online, 4-year degree program from Arizona State University, he said. Starbucks reimburses partners (employees) 100 percent of the tuition after all other qualifying scholarships or financial aid.

 Homeport hopes the Starbucks relationship will serve as a model for others interested in connecting on a charitable, social and business level. (Editor's Note: 17 individuals received job offers from the Job Fair. Read Columbus Dispatch article.)