The plans for Nationwide Realty Investors' Jerome Village have been ambitious from the very start.

The plans for Nationwide Realty Investors' Jerome Village have been ambitious from the very start.

The vision: build 2,500 homes on more than 1,400 acres in Jerome Township, using its own "smart growth" model that would incorporate green space, schools, commercial properties, a community center and a town center.

Regionally, only New Albany and Muirfield Village rival the project in scope and scale.

Perhaps the most ambitious aspect of the project has been its timing, amid a continued struggling economy.

The recession has slowed the progress of Jerome Village but hasn't totally halted it.

On Sept. 26, David Fisher and Bart Barok of Nationwide Realty Investors met with the Jerome Township zoning commission, seeking a modification to a prior agreement they had struck with the township regarding density and lot sizes.

"Since we agreed on the lot sizes more than a year ago, the (real estate) market has dictated the building of slightly smaller lots," Fisher said. "Where a year ago we might have anticipated building x-number of $500,000 lots, the market is now dictating lots that come in between $250,000 and $300,000."

To accommodate the smaller lots, Fisher said, his company was asking for approval to reduce lot sizes by up to 10 percent and to increase the density in any of its segments (referred to as "pods") by the same percentage while not breaking any of the promises made regarding the overall project.

Don Brosius, the township's legal counsel for zoning, said Nationwide would be bound to "what we'd call a 'true-up' at proscribed intervals." In other words, if it were to increase the density in one part of the development, it would have to decrease it in another.

In summer 2010, Nationwide Realty began to run sewer and water lines to the site while it recruited builders for the development. Compass Homes, 3 Pillar Homes and Schottenstein Homes all have signed on to build homes in the 500-acre portion - the first 'pod' - of Jerome Village, in the area called Glacier Park, west of Hyland-Croy Road and North of Brock Road. Nationwide's agreement with the township allows for it to build 130 lots in Glacier Park.

The company expects the project to take 10 to 15 years to reach completion, depending on market conditions and population growth in central Ohio.

Commission member Tracey Guerin expressed concern about rumors she has heard from residents who have visited the Glacier Park model home.

"The salespeople there were talking about the town center, and I was told they said, 'Oh, that won't be built for years and years - if it ever gets built at all,'" Guerin said. "Naturally, I found that rather alarming."

Fisher and Bartok seemed as alarmed.

"Of course, we can't promise with certainty how the project will end up because it's so far in the future, and so much can change when it comes to the real estate market and the economy," Fisher said. "But we have every intention of building a town center and in other ways following through on our original designs for the project."

Kathleen Crowley, township development director, said she was "as alarmed as Tracey" by the rumors but also just as pleased with Nationwide's response to them.

"The big selling point of this project - and the reason the township is so excited about it - is that Nationwide has promised to build not just another subdivision like every other subdivision ever made, but to build a real community that is inclusive rather than exclusive," Crowley said. "They did not sell us a gated-community type of development but neighborhoods that we could all enjoy and share in."

Crowley said the challenge is in making sure promises are met.

"But in working with Nationwide Realty, it's been my experience that they deliver on their promises," she said. "They have compromised just as the township has had to compromise."