Doors Open OTR offers tech-savvy tour of unique businesses, art institutions in Over-the-Rhine

Three weekend events spotlight OTR architecture
Three weekend events spotlight OTR architecture
Three weekend events spotlight OTR architecture
Three weekend events spotlight OTR architecture
Posted at 9:17 PM, Oct 24, 2017

CINCINNATI - The last weekend in October offers a trifecta of housing and architecture-oriented events taking place in the same Cincinnati neighborhood — Over-the-Rhine. 

While the curated home showcase DesignBuildCincy returns to Music Hall after a one-year hiatus and a series of home and community development talks takes place in nearby Memorial Hall, a new, technologically savvy tour called Doors Open OTR will be launched by the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati throughout the city's large historic district.

Doors Open is a free, app-based tour of 30 architecturally unique businesses and art institutions that have contributed to the vibrancy and growth of Over-the-Rhine. All will open their doors from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday to those who register and download the #DoorsOpenOTR app through the AFC website,

Participants can pick and choose venues to visit by using the app's interactive map. The app contains detailed information about each location as well as photographs, and there will be representatives at each site to answer questions.

Doors Open OTR is a bold departure for the AFC and likely is the first of its kind in the United States, said AFC Executive Director Stephen Sendelbeck.

A few years ago, Sendelbeck said, the AFC realized it wasn't maximizing 21st-century tools to reach out to the community and champion architecture and design. Looking around, its board of directors saw large, self-guided architectural tours in Chicago, Denver, Baltimore and Milwaukee and began discussing how one would work in Cincinnati.

Members turned to Sendelbeck to make the tour happen. Freelance programmer Sean Davis (he also developed AFC's ArchiTour app that came out in September 2016) created the technological platform for the app, and Sendelbeck researched and compiled data on each property and photographed about 75 percent of the sites.

The AFC purposefully focused on businesses such as Cintrifuse and art institutions such as the Art Academy of Cincinnati instead of housing. It didn't want to compete with the numerous home tours offered in the past. 

"We're going to get people behind the scenes in these places. ... Like Union Hall (where Cintrifuse is located). Who knew there's 38,000 square feet of space in there? ... The space in that facility is really, really beautiful."

The AFC chose to develop an app "instead of a brochure that people look at and then throw away," Sendelbeck said. Plus, printing brochures is expensive and the lifeline and the capacity of an app is limitless. 

"We can put as much data as we want on it, as many pictures as we want," he said.

To help get the word out, the AFC ramped up its Social Media blast by posting a 40-second video produced by Big Media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There's also a two-minute video at

"If we can pull this off, it's going to be really exciting" and will provide a springboard to dive into a project three times this size in 2018, Sendelbeck said.

Next year, the AFC plans to feature 100 or more businesses, arts facilities and residences in the core metropolitan area that stretches from Covington and Newport to Clifton.


Show creator Doug Hart's two-day extravaganza of design and craftsmanship is an opportunity for homeowners and wannabes to be inspired and learn what products and services are available in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

It will be the first event in the remodeled Music Hall Grand Ballroom and will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets, which cost $10, can be ordered online at

More than 100 vendors will be set up in the ballroom. They include architects, artisans, craftsmen, contractors, designers, fabricators, cabinet and furniture makers, landscapers, luxury kitchen and bath suppliers, kitchen designers and retailers.

DesignBuildCincy also is hosting three special speakers on Saturday. They include HGTV show host Chip Wade, who will present "Art of Amazing Space" in hour-long talks Saturday morning and afternoon in Memorial Hall's Anderson Theater.

For more information and to order tickets ($10-$20), go to

Sister Speaker Series

Also on Saturday, local architects and planners will unveil five plans and ideas for the future development of Cincinnati during a two-hour, immersive event hosted by Soapbox Media in Anderson Theater.

Among the speakers will be the AFC's Sendelbeck, who will join Chad Edwards of Emersion Design and Chris Hermann of MKSK Studios in laying out a plan to cap Fort Washington Way.

Soapbox Speaker Series: Designing Cincinnati's Future will take place from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 at