Bal Harbour Shops founder going strong at 95

Stanley Whitman
Stanley Whitman

Stanley Whitman refuses to let age slow him down.

The patriarch of the pioneering family behind the Bal Harbour Shops celebrates his 95th birthday today. But don’t expect Whitman to spend too much time partying, as his company is extremely busy these days with a major expansion of the Bal Harbour retail hub looming and a partnership with Swire Properties on the massive Brickell CityCentre development.

Whitman bought the land that would eventually become the home of Bal Harbour Shops for a mere $2 per square foot in 1965. Since then, the high-end shopping center north of Miami Beach has become a retail industry leader. Its tenant roster now includes Chanel, Gucci, Prada and Valentino.

Currently generating $2,808 per square foot in sales, Bal Harbour Shops tops the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) list of the world’s most productive shopping centers.

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Whitman continues to work closely with his son Randy and grandson Matthew. The trio proposed a $200 million expansion of Bal Harbour Shops to the Village Council last month.

“It is one of the greatest satisfactions for me to work with my son and grandson,” Whitman told The Real Deal. “We don’t always agree, but we have a wonderful relationship. I enjoy everything that I do.”

If approved, the center would expand by 250,000 square feet within the next three years. That would include 100,000 square feet of department stores and more than 20 speciality retail shops. Project plans include the construction of a new 61,000-square-foot church for the adjacent Church by the Sea.

The Whitman family also purchased an undisclosed stake in Brickell CityCentre earlier this year and is partnering with Swire on the development of the project’s first phase, a 500,000-square-foot high-end retail center. The companies expect to attract similar luxury retailers to the ones that occupy Bal Harbour shops.

Whitman is an example of how the South Florida real estate industry can become a lifelong passion and family operation. Developers like Whitman eschew retirement to help position their companies to thrive for future generations. Another development pioneer in the region, 86-year-old Tibor Hollo, has several major projects in the works for Miami’s Central Business District.