Flats Forward Inc. was formed in 2012 as the result of the Flats Forward Governance and Visioning Initiative, a coalition of organizations including Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Historic Warehouse District Development Corporation, Ohio City Inc., Tremont West Development Corporation, and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, brought together under the leadership of Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman. Civic Commons was instrumental in launching the Flats Forward initiative that involved reengaging with the stakeholders of the Flats and helped produce a cohesive report on what was immediately needed in the region. To facilitate the collection of this information several public meetings were held, including a large Flats Community meeting and a Property Owners meeting in 2011.
These community forums attracted over 500 citizens that came together to discuss the current status, needs, and future of the Flats. The property owners and stakeholders identified three main issues: Infrastructure, security, and a need for inclusiveness. The overwhelming need for a new entity to oversee these issues with the sole goal to enhance the Flats and address the issues was the central idea. From the stakeholder engagement process and the Flats Steering Committee, Flats Forward Inc. was convened in September 2012.