New Residential Mixed-Use Development Planned for McKinney, Texas

Lifestyle village estimated to cost $800M, mixes homes and retail


Are there enough Ken Cooper devotees to fill a village?

Georgia-based Wellstone Communities LLC is building an $800 million mixed-use development in McKinney because it believes there are.

Wellstone, under the leadership of chief executive John Lowery, teamed up with the father of aerobics and his son, Tyler Cooper, to develop the nation's first luxury community focused on fitness and wellness - right down to the restaurants' menus,

The 51-acre Cooper Life at Craig Ranch will have 223 single-family homes, 592 condos and lofts, shops, cafes, parks and outdoor exercise areas with the 75,000-square-foot Cooper Aerobics Center as its hub.

This will be carefree living on antioxidants.

Not only will Cooper Life have concierge services like those at a Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton residential development, but there's also a support system to help residents live healthier: doctors, dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers all available for house calls.

"We're trying to create an environment where healthy choices are easy options," says Dr. Tyler Cooper, president of Cooper Life.

In case you haven't gotten that far north, Craig Ranch is a 2,500-acre new-urbanism development that also features the PGA Tour Tournament Players Club golf course and other commercial, residential and sport-related facilities.

Wellstone and the Coopers have a 20-year contract to reproduce Cooper Life developments around the globe. But 35-year-old Tyler and his 75-year-old dad had a daunting list of requirements before they signed their famous names to the deal.

They can veto restaurants that don't pass their nutritional standards and shape 25 percent of the menus of those that do.

"The Coopers had their pick of the litter in terms of picking a strategic alliance," Mr. Lowery says. "It took a monumental effort on our part to pull this off."

RTKL chosen

Mr. Lowery spent $500,000 selecting an architectural firm, bringing representatives from three contenders to McKinney for a two-day confab about Craig Ranch and the Coopers' vision. Ultimately, the trio settled on Baltimore-based RTKL Associates Inc., which has an office in Dallas.

"I've met with the Coopers every Thursday for the past year designing every component of every building that goes into this project," says Mr. Lowery.

Dr. Ken Cooper calls their partnership "divine intervention." His son agrees.

"Over the years, we've had countless opportunities to expand all over the world. We just clicked with John and Wellstone. I'm glad we did because we have a wonderful relationship."

Mr. Lowery explains the alliance this way: "The Coopers have a contract with the Cooper Life homeowners association to provide all of the services - security, getting your car serviced, picking up your dry cleaning to the medical.

"We're putting up the money to build it. They're putting up the money to manage it."

Cooper Life is being touted as an "ageless" community. But by sheer economics, its target market is probably people 50 and older.

Single-family homes will be priced from $600,000 to $2 million, with multifamily housing running $400,000 to $600,000. Homeowner association fees are expected to run $1,100 to $2,000 a month.

"We expect the first house to be completed and occupied by next September," says Mr. Lowery.

First United Bank in Durant, Okla., is providing a portion of the construction financing because its 42-year-old chief executive, Greg Massey, is a believer.

A year ago, he became a Cooper convert when the staff at the Aerobics Center told him to drop 30 pounds, exercise more, lower his cholesterol and get his blood sugar under control, then showed him how to do it.

Now the bank has a full-time Cooper-trained wellness director who is fitness guru to its 600 employees in Oklahoma and Texas.

But Mr. Massey wouldn't lend $22 million just because of that.

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