Bal Harbour Shops Plans Expansion with Workforce Housing

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Whitman plans to add affordable housing to Bal Harbour Shops under new law

Bal Harbour Shops Plans Expansion with Workforce Housing

Whitman Family Development's Matthew Whitman Lazenby and a rendering of the project (Whitman Family Development)


The owner of Bal Harbour Shops plans to move forward with a mixed-use expansion of the high-end mall, using the state’s new affordable housing legislation. 

Whitman Family Development filed plans with Bal Harbour to develop a 70-room hotel, 600 residential units and another 46,000 square feet of retail, according to a press release. Part of the project would be built where a Barneys store was previously planned. 

Under Florida’s Live Local Act, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last year, 40 percent of the residential units will be designated as workforce housing for at least 30 years, for people making up to 120 percent of the area median income. In Miami-Dade County, that comes out to just under $90,000, based on the county’s AMI of $74,700.

“Bal Harbour Shops will diversify the area’s housing market so that people who work in this Village can actually live here,” CEO Matthew Whitman Lazenby said in a statement, referring to service employees, teachers and first responders. 

Whitman plans to begin with the workforce housing component on the southwest corner of the Bal Harbour Shops property, then build luxury housing and the boutique hotel. The southwest corner is where Barneys planned to open its flagship Florida store before it filed for bankruptcy

Live Local allows developers to increase density and height if they commit to incorporating workforce housing into their projects. The law allows developers to build as tall as other projects within a mile of their sites, though a bill that was introduced last week would limit the height maximum to projects within a quarter of a mile. 

The 18-acre Bal Harbour Shops is in the midst of a half-billion-dollar expansion that includes adding 250,000 square feet to the 511,000-square-foot shopping center. The expansion has been in the works for more than five years. 

Whitman plans buildings of up to 275 feet tall, which could be about 27 stories, according to the release. The Live Local Act lets the developer build taller without having to seek city approval, which Whitman has tried to do in the past. Whitman would only be subject to the village’s administrative approval process. 

In 2006, Bal Harbour residents voted to limit commercial buildings to five stories. Years later, Whitman Family Development sought a charter amendment that would have allowed the firm to apply for a height increase. Voters shot that down. After a yearslong battle, the village approved the expansion in 2017.

Some municipalities have tried to fight Live Local, by passing building moratoriums or setting up guardrails that could be challenged in court. 

In Miami Beach, the owner of the historic Clevelander and Essex House hotels on Ocean Drive plans to redevelop the property into a mixed-income housing tower with luxury condos and affordable rentals. The city has said that the plans conflict with Miami Beach’s land development regulations, including FAR rules. Jesta Group, the Montreal-based developer, sought FAR of 6.95 on the Clevelander property, while the maximum allowed FAR in the city is 3.5, and 2.0 in the hotels’ district.

In September, the city of Doral passed a six-month moratorium on all new project proposals that fall under the Live Local Act to give the city time to analyze the legislation. In the fall, the city reached a compromise with the Apollo Companies regarding its plans for a major mixed-use project called Oasis at Doral. Apollo is still taking advantage of Live Local, but lowered the planned maximum height within the project to eight stories from 12 stories. 

The law also sets aside more than $700 million in funding; creates tax incentives for developers; and bars rent control, which was previously only an option if local governments declared a housing emergency.


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