Bal Harbour Shops Owner Proposes Affordable Housing at Uber-Luxury Mall

Plan calls for 600 apartments and a hotel using the state’s Live Local Act

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The Bal Harbour Shops — one of the most luxurious malls in the country, where Chanel, Gucci, and Prada boutiques reside — could soon also be home to affordable housing.

The owner of the 18-acre shopping mall, Whitman Family Development, filed a proposal Tuesday to add an additional 45,700 square feet of retail, a 70-room luxury hotel, and housing. 

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The plan calls for 600 apartments, of which 40 percent would be earmarked as workforce housing and the remaining would be priced at market rates. The fourth-generation family-owned firm is using Florida’s Live Local Act, a housing law enacted by the state legislature last year, to make its pitch — at a time when rental prices are spiking. 

The law requires municipalities to approve mixed-use developments if at least 40 percent of the residential units are designated as affordable or workforce housing — which translates to 120 percent of area median income — for a minimum of 30 years. 

The move is somewhat surprising given the pedigree of the open-air mall, considered one of the most luxurious in the country. The Village of Bal Harbour, too, is a wealthy, oceanfront suburb of Miami, where the average home is valued at $1.7 million and rental listings go for about $7,000 a month, according to Realtor.com.

“By adding workforce and market-rate housing catering to service and hospitality workers, teachers, first responders, and other workers who are the backbone and lifeblood of our community and who are currently priced out of the market, Bal Harbour Shops will diversify the area’s housing market so that people who work in [Bal Harbour] can actually live here,” Matthew Whitman Lazenby, president and CEO of Whitman Family Development, said in a statement.

The mixed-use expansion plan features four buildings rising 275 feet, the same height as the St. Regis resort across the street from the mall. The new buildings would be constructed atop the mall’s existing structure.

The proposal comes as the mall is already undergoing an expansion that will nearly double the center’s current retail space to 500,000 square feet, accommodating 35 new upscale stores and restaurants, after securing a $550 million construction loan in 2019 from MetLife Investment Management.

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com