Flats Forward

The Civic Commons has concluded its work on the Flats Forward Initiative and submitted a summary report to the Flats Forward stakeholder group. The report can be viewed online here. The initiative has given birth to Flats Forward Incorporated, an organization cast with the responsibility of the stewardship of the entire Flats community.

Cleveland was born in the Flats The City grew up around the Flats. It's the place that gave rise to the city's industry and wealth. It's the city's heart. It's where we connect to our river and our lake. And it's a place that for decades has been at a standstill. Now, it's time to move the Flats Forward.

Earlier this year, city leaders invited more than 350 citizens to the old Powerhouse building to see the Cuyahoga’s riverfront in a new light - and to dream about the future. It was the beginning of something.

There is, actually, a lot happening in the Flats, in fact, more than $2 billion in public and private money is being invested in and around the Cuyahoga’s banks.

But, more importantly, right now, you have an opportunity to help design the future of the Flats. The Mayor’s office, City Council and a collaboration of stakeholders want to hear from you. They want to know what draws you to this place, and what you think is missing. They want you to help create a vision and a plan that will make move the Flats Forward, back to a place that matters to all of us.

A Little Historical Context

We asked mild mannered reporter Steve Litt to help us with this. He’s the Plain Dealer’s art and architecture critic, and back in 2000, he wrote a huge series for the paper about the history and future of the Flats (neither of which has changed much since then). He explains for us the relevant historical highlights in this video right here.

Here’s some history worth knowing.

  • Moses Cleaveland landed here in 1796.
  • It was home to Cleveland’s first settlers, even though is was a marshy and fairly pestilent place to live.
  • In the 19th century it was a hub of regional commerce, thanks first to the Ohio and Erie Canal and then to the railroad.
  • In the 20th Century, John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Co. here, and the refineries were eventually replaced by steel mills. And the Cuyahoga River burned a bunch of times, but the last time was in 1969, a moment many credit with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
  • In 1978, the Flats Oxbow Association began its work of promoting economic development and industry in the neighborhood.
  • Congress established the Ohio & Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor in 1996, setting the stage for the development of the Towpath Trail.
  • 2011: The community gathers to create Flats Forward, a new effort to bring life back to the city’s heart.

The Forgotten Valley, a piece written by Steven Litt and Larry Hamel-Lambert of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in November 2000, provides a thorough explanation of environmental and infrastructure concerns facing the Cuyahoga Valley. Many of the challenges facing in the Valley in 2000 continue to be areas of concern today. Text Only Version

View more maps that show current and proposed land use in the Flats.

It's your Civic Commons, so you get to start the conversation you think is important.

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Who Is Behind This?

Flats Forward is a collaboration, led by Cleveland City Council and the Mayor’s office, including representatives from maritime, residential, recreational, industrial, entertainment, and commercial land uses, Ohio City Near West Development Corporation, Tremont West Development Corporation, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and the Historic Warehouse District, along with Civic Commons.

It is funded by the Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, and a Federal Community Development Block Grant through the City of Cleveland.


Got more questions about this project? Check out some answers and let us know if you don't see an answer to your question.

Community Engagement

The Civic Commons is more than just an online engagement platform. We work closely with stakeholders in the community to give as many citizens as possible a voice in the process. The Flats project is no different. We are conducting engagement activities at various locations in the Flats and conducting community meetings to engage residents, property owners and organizations in the Flats community.

Cleveland Flats In the News

EPA awards grant for removing debris from the Cuyahoga River
August 10, 2011 cleveland.com

The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority has received a $425,610 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove floating debris in North Coast Harbor and the Cuyahoga Shipping Channel.

The Burning Questions
July 2011 from Cleveland Magazine

After decades as our city's symbol of demise, can the Cuyahoga River be transformed by a group of rowers, environmentalists, developers and civic leaders into a vibrant place to live, work and play?

On Infrastructure

It’s not just that roads are filled with potholes or that bulkheads need to be replaced. A hillside - the one beneath the CMHA’s Lakeview towers, known as Franklin Hill - is on the verge of a collapse that could shut down the shipping lane and just about all other activity connecting the river to Lake Erie.

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Development Plans

Projects ranging from industrial expansion and green space creation represent nearly $2 billion of public and private investment in and around the Flats that will dramatically alter the landscape of the neighborhood. Some plans have broken ground while others are still in the design phase, so take a look at the plans that are helping move the Flats forward.

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Reports & Other Resources

The revitalization of the Flats is part of a citywide initiative to create “neighborhoods of choice” in the City of Cleveland. Many of the design principles incorporated into the Flats are a result of citywide master plans created in recent years. Learn the context for which these projects have been implemented and review media sources that have documented the rise, fall and revitalization of the Flats.

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The City of Cleveland Cleveland Rowing Foundation Downtown Cleveland Alliance The George Gund Foundation Historic Warehouse District
Insivia Ohio Canal Corridor Ohio City Bicycle Co-op Ohio City Tremont West Development Corporation