Gilbert is one of the fastest-growing residential communities in the nation. It is only fitting that a scene of such dynamic growth is the home of what is poised to emerge as one of the region’s most promising new commercial developments: Rivulon.

Developed by Nationwide Realty Investors (NRI), the real estate development affiliate of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Rivulon’s first phase represents the beginning of what will one day become a 250-acre, mixed-use destination, offering premier office space, a wide selection of dining options, a strong retail element, a hotel and upscale multifamily residential.

The finished project will include more than 3 MSF of Class A office and 500,000 SF of integrated restaurant and retail uses. Located near the intersection of Gilbert Road and the Loop 202, Rivulon fronts the adjacent highway and counts impressive visibility and accessibility among its many assets.

With site work underway and construction set to begin this fall on phase one — which includes a 4-story 120,000 SF office building and a 45,000 SF L.A. Fitness — NRI will soon give greater Phoenix its first glimpse of this new mixed-use destination.

>> Site selection

Rivulon’s greatest asset might be Gilbert itself. The town boasts a population of more than 171,000 residents and is currently adding around 1,000 new residents each month. Just 12 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Gilbert is a community that has worked hard to preserve its small-town character while simultaneously investing in the high-tech industry and progressive planning that has both shaped and driven its rapid growth.

As NRI President Brian J. Ellis explains, that combination of emerging market potential and major metropolitan access was an attractive proposition.

“We recognized an opportunity in Gilbert. It’s not only a strong market with great demographics, it’s a community poised for continued growth,” Ellis said.

NRI’s ability to identify opportunities in expanding markets is nothing new: the developer’s successful projects in Columbus, Ohio — the Arena District and Grandview Yard — have helped make the Ohio capital one of the nation’s most vibrant social and economic urban success stories.

NRI sees a fast-growing market seeking quality office space in Gilbert, and, with impressive growth also happening in adjacent communities, the regional demographic pump is already primed.

“The Phoenix market is rebounding and we expect the Southeast Valley to continue playing a role in driving that momentum,” Ellis said. “We are confident that the demand will continue to grow for the type of high-quality space we are developing at Rivulon.”

With Rivulon’s first office building scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, Ellis added he belives the timing of the project could not be better.

“The opportunity for us to introduce a significant amount of office space at a time when there is little-to-no new product in the market will be a strategic advantage for us.”

>> All the pieces

The Rivulon master plan reflects a true mixed-use project — an environment that will be more than just another collection of specialty retail and restaurants under office space. As for the live in the live-work-play equation, Ellis notes that once a critical mass of office, restaurants and retail is in place that a “market-driven” residential component will be considered.

Future plans for Rivulon also include a hotel, a use Ellis describes as “a property in alignment with the character and quality of the project,” and a grocery component.

Rivulon’s site plan and design articulate cohesiveness and connectivity. The project’s entryway off of Gilbert Road will set the tone for the project. Extensive landscaping throughout the site reflects Rivulon’s southwestern regional context, while several water features add interest and flair.

Along those same lines, pedestrian movement and flow are also important, and NRI has designed a number of winding walking trails, retail avenues and natural gathering spaces that connect office, restaurant and retail features and encourage employees and visitors to explore and engage with the site.

>> The bigger picture

While the long-term vision for Rivulon is ambitious, taking the long view is nothing new for NRI: this opportunistic, market-driven approach is a development strategy that has worked well for the company. NRI has developed well over a billion dollars in commercial and residential real estate, largely by specializing in the kind of large, complex mixed-use projects that require time, patience, and a keen strategic vision to execute successfully.

In contrast to the get-in-and-get-out approach adopted by some developers, NRI’s investments in and commitments to their projects are extensive and sustained.

“Our large mixed-use projects take anywhere from 10 to 20 years to fully mature,” Ellis said. “We expect a similar horizon for Rivulon.”

The key, Ellis elaborates, is to understand that the best way to create a memorable and sustainable mixed-use destination is to apply the structure and vision of a long-term master plan with a market-driven approach to development: building out phases and components at a pace that the market can absorb.

The well-documented success of Nationwide’s $800M Arena District in Downtown Columbus is a testament to how well that strategy can work. A 100-acre mixed-use urban infill project, the complexity of the Arena District demanded equal parts master-planned vision and nimble development flexibility.

Grandview Yard, a $500M mixed-use development built on a reclaimed warehouse site just outside of Columbus is another NRI project on a similar track.

“While the projects are different in many respects, we see echoes of both the Arena district and Grandview Yard in Rivulon,” Ellis adds. “We will be strategic, opportunistic, and uncompromisingly focused on quality — all while keeping our eye on the long-term goal: the delivery of a thriving mixed-use destination.”

>> It takes a village

As with all NRI projects, public-private cooperation and coordination has been essential throughout the Rivulon design and development process. Ellis says that Gilbert’s civic leaders and community members have been integral throughout pre-development, demonstrating both the vision and foresight to grasp the project’s true potential and a great enthusiasm to help make it happen.

“The community of Gilbert has been an active and engaged partner in the process,” Ellis said. “We look forward to their continued participation and support as we work together to deliver an outstanding amenity and a regional mixed-use destination for the City of Gilbert and Greater Phoenix.”

NRI has developed and owns more than $1.4B in real estate investments including Gainey Ranch Corporate Center in Scottsdale.