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Want to sneak a peek inside the glinting steel and glass interior of the new Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance tower? Check out Doors Open Milwaukee this year.

Doors Open Milwaukee, a two-day celebration of Milwaukee’s art, architecture, culture and history is set for September 23-24 this year. The event offers behind-the-scenes tours of more than 150 sites around town and the surrounding suburbs.

About 10,000 people attended the inaugural event in 2011. Last year, 32,000 turned out, making almost 139,000 site visits. And organizers think they’ll top those numbers this year.

“This is one of our most successful events,” says Grace Fuhr, special events coordinator for Historic Milwaukee Inc., a nonprofit organization that presents Doors Open Milwaukee.

American System Built Homes

Photo by Joyce Larson

About one-fourth of the sites in this year’s lineup are new to the event, according to Fuhr.

Among those is the new building on Northwestern Mutual’s corporate campus, a $450 million skyscraper that towers 32 stories over Wisconsin Avenue, near the lakefront.

Other new sites include a recently constructed office building in the Park East Corridor anchored by advertising agency Bader Rutter, which relocated to the new digs from Brookfield in May, and the nearby international headquarters of global staffing giant ManpowerGroup, which overlooks the Milwaukee River.

Popular sites that are again part of this year’s event include the 20-story Catholic Financial Life tower near Marquette University’s campus, which features a roof-top swimming pool and patio, and the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Milwaukee’s northwest side – designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956.

Annunciation Building

Photo by Gary Koch

Other locales include Adventure Rock, All Saints Cathedral, Cudahy train depot, the Global Water Center, Havenwoods State Forest, Islamic Resource Center, Milwaukee City Hall, Milwaukee Fire Museum, Wisconsin Black Historical Society and the Tripoli Shrine Center.

Doors Open Milwaukee also spotlights specific Milwaukee neighborhoods. This year’s focus is on Lindsay Heights on the city’s near North Side and Layton Boulevard West, which includes the Silver City, Burnham Park and Layton Park communities on the near South Side.

“We want to energize people to visit vibrant neighborhoods that they may not otherwise go to,” Fuhr says.

A survey of past attendees found that more than 60 percent visited a neighborhood for the first time as part of the event, she adds.

Among the sites in Lindsay Heights, which has undergone a major transformation, are the acclaimed restaurant The Tandem, the Fondy Food Center, the developing Fondy Park and Evelyn Patricia Terry’s home art studio.

Stops in Layton Boulevard West include Three Bridges Park, the Urban Ecology Center and the Rising Dragon martial arts studio.

“Doors Open is a great event when it comes to getting to know the many different parts of Milwaukee,” says Brianna Sas-Perez, executive director of Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, an organization that has worked to revitalize the area.

“There are so many spots to explore in our neighborhood. A real sense of community has developed here.”

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