The Whitman family is reportedly spending big on a pair of Bal Harbour village council candidates, hoping a political shuffle will help garner approvals for the family’s controversial $400 million expansion plan for the Bal Harbour Shops.
According to the Miami Herald, the family and its associates have donated roughly $45,000 to candidates Jeffrey Freimark and David Albaum ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Whitman also spent another $193,000 on public relations and legal advice through a political action committee controlled by its executives, Citizens for Future of Bal Harbour.
They’re challenging the anti-expansion Mayor Martin Packer, as well as Jaime Sanz, who recused himself from the issue because he’s a manager for Neiman Marcus, a tenant at the shopping center.
With their election, Whitman’s expansion plan could potentially get enough votes to move forward. The village council shot down a zoning change for Bal Harbour Shops by a 4-0 vote on Monday, according to the Herald.
But if Freimark and Albaum are elected, Whitman isn’t guaranteed an approval. Freimark, president and CEO of Miami Jewish Health Systems, told the newspaper that the issue should go to a public referendum. Albaum, a retired chief financial officer, said he hasn’t made a commitment either way.
Whitman’s bid to expand its luxury shopping mall has hit multiple roadblocks in the past year, ranging from public outcry to rejections from the city council.
The family’s company, Whitman Family Development, sued Assistant Mayor Patricia Cohen in July alleging she had violated the county’s code of ethics by not disclosing her friendship with the Soffer family, which owns competitor Aventura Mall. [Miami Herald] — Sean Stewart-Muniz