Whitman Family Development Expands Bal Harbour Shops with Mixed-Use Project Under New Affordable Housing LawJanuary 12, 2024
Whitman Family Development, the owner of Bal Harbour Shops, is set to embark on a mixed-use expansion of the upscale mall, utilizing Florida’s recent affordable housing legislation. The proposed project includes a 70-room hotel, 600 residential units, and an additional 46,000 square feet of retail space, as revealed in an official press release. Notably, this development will repurpose the area originally designated for a Barneys store.
According to the Live Local Act, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis last year, 40 percent of the residential units will be allocated for workforce housing, catering to individuals with incomes up to 120 percent of the area median income, translating to around $90,000 in Miami-Dade County. Bal Harbour Shops’ CEO, Matthew Whitman Lazenby, emphasized the project’s aim to diversify the housing market, providing accommodation for service employees, teachers, and first responders who work in the Village.
The construction strategy involves initiating the workforce housing segment on the southwest corner of the Bal Harbour Shops property, followed by the development of luxury housing and a boutique hotel. The Live Local Act incentivizes developers by permitting increased density and height in exchange for the inclusion of workforce housing. Whitman’s plan envisions buildings reaching up to 275 feet tall, facilitated by the law without city approval.
Bal Harbour Shops, spanning 18 acres, is undergoing a significant half-billion-dollar expansion, adding 250,000 square feet to the existing 511,000-square-foot shopping center. Whitman’s proposal aligns with the Live Local Act’s provisions, enabling taller structures without the complexities of city approvals.
Despite past challenges, including a 2017 approval after a prolonged battle, Whitman Family Development aims to capitalize on the Live Local Act to enhance the project. The legislation, however, has faced resistance in some municipalities, leading to measures like building moratoriums and legal disputes over conflicting regulations.
The broader impact of the Live Local Act is evident in other areas, such as Miami Beach, where a redevelopment proposal is met with conflicts over land development regulations. In Doral, a temporary moratorium was imposed to analyze the legislation’s implications, resulting in compromises with developers like the Apollo Companies.
Beyond its zoning implications, the law allocates substantial funding, introduces developer tax incentives, and explicitly prohibits rent control, previously contingent on local governments declaring a housing emergency. The evolving landscape of affordable housing initiatives in Florida reflects the complex interplay between development goals, regulatory frameworks, and community considerations.