Over-the-Rhine: Cincinnati, Ohio

Planning Excellence

Cincinnati's dynamic Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood has recently enjoyed a rapid and successful renaissance. By using innovative planning, and harnessing the rich history and aesthetic beauty of the neighborhood's architecture, OTR has once again become a popular area for Cincinnatians and tourists alike.

OTR owes its distinctive name to its original German immigrant inhabitants who likened the Miami and Erie Canal to the River Rhine in Germany. Much like the Rhine, the area was originally an industrial, working class neighborhood, home to brewers and the breweries that employed them. But as industrial jobs declined and urban sprawl boomed in the post-World War II era, OTR's economic vitality began to suffer.

Opening ceremonies for the Cincinnati Bell Connector at Washington Park and Music Hall in September 2016. Photo courtesy City of Cincinnati.

The neighborhood struggled to regain its commercial foothold for several decades until 2002, when neighborhood organizations and the City of Cincinnati collaborated to create a meticulous and vigorous comprehensive plan. The city recruited financial support from Cincinnati's businesses and developers with the express intention of preserving the aesthetic and historic character of the neighborhood. Through strong public-private partnerships, two of OTR's anchors — Washington Park and the iconic Cincinnati Music Hall — received funding for renovations to help stimulate revitalization efforts throughout the neighborhood.

OTR has sought to reinvent itself by preserving its past and using the neighborhood's original 19th century layout to promote dense living and multimodal transportation, including the installation of RedBike bikeshare stations and the 2016 opening of the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar.

The Over-the-Rhine Foundation and Brewery District Master Plan seek to spur economic activity based on the neighborhood's historic resources. Once listed as one of the "Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places in America" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it has since been removed from the list and was awarded third place in 2011 in the nationwide This Place Matters community challenge sponsored by the same entity.

Once one of the most economically challenged areas of Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine now shines as one of its most vibrant neighborhoods. While still facing many of the same challenges endured by historic urban communities across the country, OTR serves as a model of neighborhood revitalization. Cincinnati's planning efforts, together with public-private partnerships and the support of the community's residents, give every reason to believe this vitality will continue well into the future.

Children and families enjoy the fluorescent, multicolored water fountains in Washington Park at night. Photo courtesy Gary Kessler.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • OTR is a cultural epicenter for Cincinnati, featuring the Cincinnati Music Hall, Memorial Hall, School of Creative and Performing Arts, and numerous other local theaters that host dozens of stage productions every year. Soon there will be three new or enlarged performing arts venues, expanding the artistic culture of the community.
  • Washington Park, an anchor of the neighborhood, went through a major facelift in 2012 that included ADA accessibility features, a splash pad for children, areas for full-service concessions, an amphitheater, and preservation of historic features like columns and walls. It now serves as a home to various community activities ranging from large-scale group workouts on the lawn to cultural festivals to free concerts and family movie nights.
  • Findlay Market, a 2016 APA Great Public Space, is Ohio's oldest farmers' market, operating continuously since 1852. Finlay Market's legacy has helped support OTR's award-winning food and beverage scene.
  • The neighborhood works to provide an abundance of community events including Bockfest, the OTR 5K, City Flea, Movies in the Park in Washington Park, Final Fridays on Main, and Second Sundays on Main, just to name a few.
  • OTR fosters an innovative, entrepreneurial culture, including MORTAR to enable under-served individuals and businesses to succeed, and Cintrifuse to build a sustainable tech-based economy for the Greater Cincinnati region.
  • The Brewery District Heritage Tour is a popular activity for residents and visitors alike.

By the Numbers

  • 360 acres of primarily historic buildings — OTR is believed to have the largest contiguous collection of 19th century Italianate architecture in the nation
  • 165 years of Findlay Market providing fresh, local produce for OTR and Cincinnati residents
  • 36 breweries operated in Cincinnati in 1860, most of which were in OTR, which led to the moniker the "Beer Capital of the World" before Prohibition
  • OTR features the most 19th century brewery buildings in the country

Designated Area

OTR is bordered by Central Parkway to the west and south, West Clifton Avenue to the north, and Sycamore Street to the east.

The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade kicks off in Over-the-Rhine and winds its way to Great American Ballpark on the riverfront each year. Photo courtesy City of Cincinnati.

Web Resources

City of Cincinnati Department of City Planning

City of Cincinnati Department of Community and Economic Development

Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce

Over-the-Rhine Community Council

Over-the-Rhine Community Housing

Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation