The expansion of the Bal Harbour Shops, a much-revised plan that had been in the works for more than a decade, won final approval from the Village Council late Tuesday, setting in motion a massive construction project that is expected to take up to eight years to open.
“This vote was why I joined the council,” said Mayor Gabriel Groisman, who was elected in 2014. “I knew it was an important decision I needed to be a part of. What’s best for Bal Harbour is what’s best for me, and if it’s good for the shops then it’s good for us. Now we have to pray we made the right decision and that it gets implemented in the right way.”
Construction for the expansion is expected to take up to six years, with an additional two years until new stores officially open. Developers are hoping to break ground by the end of the year.
Matthew Whitman Lazenby of Whitman Family Development, owner of the Shops, said: “I think we came in tonight confident only because we know better than anybody that this is what the people wanted. We are thrilled that the council agreed.”
Saks representatives have argued that the retooled mall will rely too much on valet parking — up to 58 percent of the center’s parking will be valet — and that a rearranged loading dock will create logistical and traffic problems.
Darrell Payne, attorney for Saks, told the Miami Herald the store will consider taking legal actions or even vacating the shopping center. “Saks will consider all options,” Payne said after Tuesday’s vote “Everything will be on the table.”
The development agreement with Whitman Family Development includes benefits to the town such as land and money for a new municipal building. The value of the public benefits package negotiated by the village administration is estimated to be worth $100 to $120 million.
The Whitmans have sought to expand the upscale mall for years. Their quest to add more retail space ramped up in 2015, when the family company submitted a formal proposal to the village. It included a controversial land swap involving the municipal building, which required a public vote.
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