Buckner Partners With Wellness Pioneer, SMU, Noted Chef for $140M Highrise

Buckner Senior Living is opening a $140 million continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in North Dallas with plenty of partnerships meant to attract the next generation of older adults.

The 325-unit highrise community, Ventana by Buckner, will offer programming from esteemed wellness organization Cooper Aerobics, five dining venues conceptualized by celebrated chef and restaurateur Stephan Pyles and a collaboration with a lifelong learning program offered by Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Buckner Retirement Services is the senior living arm of Buckner International, a global faith-based ministry that serves more than 350,000 people each year in Texas and six countries abroad. When Ventana opens later this year, it will mark the Dallas-based senior living nonprofit’s sixth community.


Residents of Ventana will live in two adjacent 12-story towers and have access to upscale amenities such as wellness and fitness centers, a heated indoor pool, salon and spa, movie theater, rooftop garden, multiple patios and underground parking. Ventana’s residents can choose from one-, two- and three-bedroom floorplans that range from 950 to 2,000 square feet.

The development is a “Type A” CCRC, with deposits starting at around $400,000 and monthly rates for residents beginning at about $3,500.

It also represents Buckner’s latest foray in developing communities aimed at the baby boomer generation’s unique preferences and needs, according to Rick Pruett, executive director of Ventana by Buckner.


“What we want to do is have a modern community that has some really contemporary approaches to senior living,” Pruett told Senior Housing News. “The baby boomers tend to have a really strong voice … on what’s interesting and aspirational.”

‘Carte blanche’

At the core of Buckner’s Ventana plan is a belief that many older adults will want to maintain their lifestyles, even after they’ve moved into senior housing. So, the organization is collaborating with Cooper Wellness Strategies, a a Cooper Aerobics company; chef Stephan Pyles and SMU — all of which have plenty of local appeal in Dallas.

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“People in Dallas have long recognized Stephan Pyles and his restaurants,” Wilson said. “And a lot of them have been members of the Cooper Aerobics Center, which is nationally recognized.”

Pyles, who is working with Buckner as a culinary consultant, is well-known in the area for his acclaimed restaurants, including modern Texas eatery Flora Street Cafe. In the past three decades, he’s created 22 restaurants in five different cities.

“The kitchens [at Ventana] are great, the dining rooms are beautiful and they’ve given me carte blanche in ordering the best china and silverware,” Pyles told Senior Housing News. “It feels like any upscale and refined restaurant that I would open anywhere.”

While the Dallas chef is a newcomer to the senior living industry, he’s ventured outside the restaurant world many times before. To date, he has helped design menus as a consultant for the likes of American Airlines, the Dallas Museum of Art and hotels including Hotel Zaza, The Gaylord Texan and Omni.

Ventana will have a 44-seat formal dining venue with a menu of Pyle’s “greatest hits” and a curated wine list, a more casual bistro serving Mediterranean fare, a cafe with American comfort food, a sky lounge with bar snacks and a barista or bar area with grab-and-go fare and coffee.

While Pyles collaborated with a nutritionist, he also took inspiration from his own dining habits in coming up with the community’s food and drink menus.

“I am cooking the way I tend to eat these days,” the 67-year-old chef said. “And it just so happens that’s the trend of health and nutrition, and where we’re headed.”

Pyles is also working with Buckner to hire and train an executive chef and general manager to open and oversee all five venues.

“What I want to do is create an environment where the guest feels honored and respected and welcomed and nourished,” Pyles said. “Not just in food, but in every sense of the word.”

Hanging with Dr. Cooper

Ventana will also offer health and wellness initiatives through a collaboration with Cooper Aerobics, a Dallas-based organization that spans six health and wellness companies and a research and education nonprofit called The Cooper Institute.

Cooper Aerobics’ namesake is Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, a U.S. health and fitness pioneer who coined the term “aerobics” in his 1968 book by the same name. Today, the organization is run by Cooper’s son, Dr. Tyler Cooper. Cooper Wellness Strategies is its B2B arm, and it was founded by Dr. Tyler Cooper in 1995.

At Ventana, Cooper Wellness will provide health and wellness consulting for residents, manage the community’s wellness center and help lead various wellness initiatives.

“This is a fitness and wellness approach to living,” Pruett said. “It’s a hot trend, and we’re answering our marketplace with some good lifestyle offerings.”

Physical fitness isn’t the only way Bucker hopes to keep residents feeling well.

Ventana residents will also receive a 20% discount on SMU’s lifelong learning program, which allows them to take college courses without being held to a class schedule or grade requirements.

“What we set out to do … is really build our brand and associate with other great brands here in the Dallas market,” Wilson said. “For us to be successful, we felt like we really needed to have some of these key partnerships.”

Wellness is a rising trend in the senior living industry, and Cooper is not the only wellness-focused organization adapting its practices for older adults. For instance, wellness resort pioneer Canyon Ranch is planning to enter the senior living industry.

Beyond Ventana

Luxury senior living is just one of the ways the nonprofit seeks to innovate and grow in the years ahead, according to Charlie Wilson, senior vice president with Buckner.

“We’re also looking at how we can add some affordable communities to our portfolio,” Wilson told SHN. “Everybody wants to do the luxury end of the market, and we could still do more of that. But I think there’s going to be room on both ends of the spectrum.”

Indeed, recently released research findings show that 54% of middle-income seniors will not be able to afford private-pay senior living by 2029, if current rates hold.

Buckner isn’t the only nonprofit with that approach. For instance, Pacific Retirement Services (PRS) is moving full steam ahead with its plan to open upscale senior living highrises under the Mirabella brand in western U.S. markets. At the same time, the Medford, Oregon-based organization has a 25-property portfolio of affordable housing communities.