By Julie Brown
What do you get when you combine one of the Valley’s most successful multifamily developers with one of the nation’s most prestigious commercial developers? The result is an unprecedented joint venture between two real estate powerhouses to develop a multifamily project like no other in the East Valley. The Rockefeller Group and Investment Property Associates (IPA) have teamed up to develop Liv Northgate, a 402-unit premium apartment home community in Gilbert.
Rockefeller Group is a national owner, developer and manager of some of the nation’s most prestigious commercial real estate properties. When Assistant Vice President and Arizona Regional Director Mark Singerman joined the company in 2008, his first task was to rezone a 160-acre site in Gilbert. Singerman rezoned the property, originally slated for office and single family homes, to include light industrial, office, retail and multifamily so it would be more conducive to the market.
“We always intended on selling the multifamily and retail portion of it because that’s not our primary focus,” says Singerman. “When we were unable to sell the multifamily piece at a price that made sense for us, we had to come up with another strategy.”
The Rockefeller Group’s strategy was initially to develop the multifamily piece on its own until it considered just how far out of the company’s comfort zone that was.
“Our choices were to staff up and hopefully find the right people to do this or partner with someone who knows how to do it and has a proven track record,” adds Singerman.
When IPA was first contacted about the Gilbert multifamily project, it was very skeptical.
“We really had to be sold on Gilbert,” says Bill Fettis, a principal with IPA.
“When we first visited the site in Gilbert a couple years ago, it was farmland in every direction, so we frankly wondered why we were out there,” adds Scott Brooks, an IPA partner. “Then as we got to know Gilbert’s story and began to understand the quality and growth trajectory of the community, we saw real opportunity.”
IPA has been developing and managing multifamily properties for more than 27 years, including some of the Valley’s most prestigious multifamily properties. The company’s track record includes converting a 488-unit complex in Ahwatukee to a successful community it later sold, which attracted the attention of Singerman and his team at The Rockefeller Group.
“They basically took a Mark-Taylor product and upgraded it and really raised the bar for Class A properties,” shares Singerman. “Not only are they well capitalized, but they bring multifamily experience to the table we don’t have.”
Eventually Rockefeller sold IPA on the Gilbert site and the two signed on as equal partners.
“To have a partner like Rockefeller with such a legacy of development experience was attractive to us,” adds Brooks. “We can learn a lot from each other.”
Liv Northgate is under construction in Gilbert at the northeast quadrant of Recker and Warner roads adjacent to the master planned community of Morrison Ranch. It’s the fourth in a series of Liv branded properties developed and managed by IPA which include one completed in Chandler as well as others in development in Ahwatukee and north Scottsdale. Liv is IPA’s first multi-property brand and is defined by high-end living with resort-style amenities.
“We really develop our properties around how can we help people to live fuller lives,” says Brooks. “We do that by creating a physical environment that supports personal growth and meaningful connections with others. We follow four core elements which include community, wellness, technology and sustainability.”
The joint venture is an opportunity for The Rockefeller Group to diversify its portfolio. The company is involved in other joint ventures around the country, including a retail property in California, but this is among its first projects in the multifamily sector. Singerman says the company plans to have more multifamily projects in the future and recognizes the value they bring in a changing market according to Singerman.
“I hope we hold on to this asset,” shares Singerman. “As an office and industrial developer, we usually have long-term leases that get locked in. As inflation comes back, apartments are great to have because the leases roll over much sooner. You can protect yourself against inflation, which we believe will show itself again.”
Liv Northgate is expected to open phase one this spring. IPA will manage the community once it has been developed.
“It’s a pleasure to work with the Rockefeller Group,” shares Fettis. “We appreciate how seriously they are taking it for what may be considered a small project for them. We’ve spent a lot of time planning and have a good vision for this project. We’re excited to see where it goes.”