The plans for expansion of the Bal Harbour Shops are changing again after its ownership withdrew an offer to buy Village Hall.
One month after Whitman Family Development offered to pay $15.6 million for the village municipal building to make way for expansion, the company has withdrawn its offer and submitted new plans that do not include public land.
The Whitmans have long wanted to expand the upscale mall, but previous attempts have stalled at the village council. After the Shops spent hundreds of thousands funding successful council campaigns for two candidates who support allowing the expansion to go to a referendum, its ownership in January proposed buying Village Hall and paying for a new municipal building elsewhere.
Now, the Whitmans say they will work on the land they own.
“Our primary focus now is on working with the village to move forward an enhancement plan that improves the Shops and brings significant benefits to the community, within the footprint of land currently owned by Whitman Family Development,” said CEO Matthew Whitman Lazenby.
The new plans are to add 352,000 square feet to the mall, most of which will be space to lease to retailers. The new wing would go where parking is now, and a new parking lot would be built at 9700 Collins Ave., the former site of the Church by the Sea. A new rendering shows an expanded mall with a Barneys New York right next to Village Hall.
At a village council meeting last week, Mayor Gabriel Groisman announced the new submission and said the city is closer to settling two pending lawsuits from the Shops.
“Althought we’re not at a resolution yet, it looks like we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “I say that cautiously.”
Bal Harbour Shops’ expansion plans would require a waiver of land-use approvals from the Village Council.
Meanwhile, a petition from residents aimed at stopping the expansion has stalled, after the village clerk determined the submitted signatures were not valid based on what the clerk considered to be missing documentation.
Organized under the political committee Good Government for Bal Harbour, residents submitted signatures for two petitions after November’s election to amend the village’s charter: One to raise the threshold required to approve sales of public land, and another to require a referendum for proposed redevelopment plans that would increase retail space by more than 30 percent. The referendum would need 60 percent approval to pass.
In a memo to the council last week, Village Clerk Dwight Danie explained that the signatures were submitted without an affidavit signed by the person collecting the signatures. Danie wrote that the form, while not required by law, is a best practice when considering petitions.
“If they had submitted their filing documents with the Village of Bal Harbour, or if I had had any contact with or inquiries from committee members before the petitions were filled at the village, I would, as a standard of practice, [have] provided them with a template for their petition,” Danie wrote.
J.C. Planas, attorney for the petitioners, and Village Attorney Richard Weiss both noted the matter is likely on its way to court.
“This is neither acrimonious nor contentious litigation,” Planas said at last week’s hearing. “It is basically a judgment of the law.”