Skip to main content

Bal Harbour Shops’ Bold Move: A Residential Project Shaking Up Miami’s Real Estate Landscape

Introduction:

In a surprising twist that has left local officials and residents in awe, Bal Harbour Shops, the luxury mall just north of Miami Beach, has unveiled ambitious plans for a residential project that defies local zoning regulations. The proposal, featuring 600 high-end residential units, 70 hotel rooms, and over 45,000 square feet of additional retail space, seeks to challenge the limits set by a new Florida law, the Live Local Act. This groundbreaking project has sparked a heated debate within the community and beyond.

The Live Local Act: Changing the Game

At the heart of the controversy is the Live Local Act, a Florida law empowering developers with additional rights when building affordable housing. Developers can now bypass city council votes for affordable housing projects, provided they adhere to all other local regulations. Bal Harbour Shops aims to leverage this legislation to override local zoning rules and pursue a project that reaches towering heights, nearly five times the allowable limit.

Affordable Housing Goals:

A notable aspect of the proposed project is its commitment to affordable housing. The developers plan to designate 40% of the residential units as income-restricted “workforce housing,” aligning with the Live Local Act’s minimum threshold. While this move is seen as an attempt to meet state-defined affordable housing criteria, it has ignited concerns and objections from residents and local officials alike.

Community Outcry:

Bal Harbour Mayor Jeffrey Freimark has faced a surge of complaints from residents in the wake of the project’s announcement. The proposed development, soaring 275 feet tall, is expected to exacerbate traffic congestion in the small village of 3,000 residents. Freimark acknowledges the growing discontent, emphasizing the potential impact on traffic and the concerns raised by the community.

Divergent Perspectives:

Matthew Whitman Lazenby, President and CEO of Whitman Family Development, the mall owner, defends the project, highlighting its potential to provide housing options for workers in industries like hospitality, public safety, and healthcare. Lazenby argues that the development aligns with the economic goals of creating sustainable housing options for those priced out of the market.

Legal Hurdles and Future Discussions:

As the proposal faces scrutiny, village attorneys are reviewing its compliance with the Live Local Act and an ongoing development agreement. The law, while preempting local height restrictions, leaves questions about floor-area ratio (FAR) unaddressed. Bal Harbour officials are skeptical, with Mayor Freimark expressing doubts about the project’s compliance with existing FAR definitions.

Miami State Senator Alexis Calatayud, who introduced the Live Local Act, has taken steps to further support developers. An updated bill filed by Calatayud aims to prohibit local governments from restricting FAR, potentially opening the door for projects like Bal Harbour Shops’.

Conclusion:

The Bal Harbour Shops’ residential project has undoubtedly stirred the waters of Miami’s real estate scene. The clash between local regulations, community concerns, and the push for affordable housing sets the stage for a contentious debate. As discussions unfold, it remains to be seen whether this ambitious project will reshape the skyline or face substantial hurdles in its quest to break ground in Bal Harbour.