Bal Harbour Shops founder Stanley Whitman dies at 98

Stanley Whitman
Stanley Whitman

Bal Harbour Shops’ founder Stanley Whitman, largely viewed as a visionary for creating a high-end retail center that has endured more than 50 years, passed away on Wednesday.

Exactly a week earlier, his longtime plans to expand the luxury shopping center gained final village approval.

He was 98 and died of natural causes at his Miami Shores home, according to Whitman Family Development. He remained active until recently, and often enjoyed having lunch at Bal Harbour Shops, where he appeared as a legendary figure.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Whitman grew up as a member of a pioneering Miami Beach family, in a single-family home on the ocean at 32nd Street and Collins Avenue, where the Faena Hotel stands today. His family owned retail buildings on Lincoln Road, and he got his start in real estate by leasing that space and selling swaths of oceanfront property along Miami-Dade’s coastline.

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In 1946, after returning from the war, Whitman became one of the original 25 incorporators of what would become Bal Harbour. He partnered with the Bal Harbour’s developer, Robert Graham, to build the town’s business district, and by 1965, after buying out Graham’s stake, he opened Bal Harbour Shops. The open-air, high-end shopping center featured the first Neiman Marcus outside of Texas and boasted that it was the first retail center to break $1,000 per square foot in sales.

Last Wednesday, Bal Harbour Shops won final approval to nearly double its size, capping more than a year of contentious politics, lawsuits and last-minute opposition from anchor tenant Saks Fifth Avenue. The $400 million expansion could last as long as eight years and will add more than 340,000 square feet to the complex’s current 511,000 square feet, an increase of 74 percent.

Whitman Family Development, led by Whitman’s grandson Matthew Whitman Lazenby, is also a retail co-developer with Swire Properties and Simon Property Group on the retail component at Brickell City Centre.