In 2020, Bal Harbour Shops marks its 55th year amidst a $550-million enhancement plan, including new retail and dining that will solidify the destination as a global luxury retail icon for decades to come. The expansion will add nearly 250,000 square feet to the open-air shopping center, nearly doubling Bal Harbour Shops’ current retail space to accommodate the lengthy waiting list of luxury stores that want to bring their exclusive brands to this premier shopping center.
In 1965, when owner/developer Stanley Whitman opened Florida’s first exclusive, high-fashion shopping center on what had been the site of a World War II army barracks, retail experts scoffed at the ambitious Bal Harbour Shops’ upscale store mix. After all, at that time the norm was to mix essential service tenants—such as grocery and hardware stores—with retail. And, with the advent of air conditioning sweeping the nation, enormous enclosed malls surrounded by seas of asphalt parking as far as the eye could see were being built at breakneck speed.
Bucking the trend, Bal Harbour Shops was designed to celebrate the balmy beauty of South Florida. Ideally situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay in the affluent village of Bal Harbour, the lushly landscaped, open-air destination didn’t look or feel like any other center in the United States. Even its parking areas with their generous palm canopies, were designed with comfort, convenience and natural beauty in mind.
Bal Harbour Shops’ early success was largely due to Whitman’s resolve in persuading Neiman Marcus, in 1971, to open its first specialty department store outside its native Texas and in luring designer boutiques that previously could only be found along the Champs-Elysées in Paris or on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Attracted by the immediate success of Neiman Marcus, in 1976, Saks Fifth Avenue became Bal Harbour Shops’ second anchor store and it became the very first place in the world that Neiman and Saks would both call home. In 1982 a 100,000-square-foot second level was added to the shopping center to accommodate the demand for more retail space from luxury brands.
Recognized as the forerunner of luxury shopping mall developers, Stanley Whitman was considered somewhat of a maverick. The coveted collection of stores that Whitman assembled was unparalleled and quickly became the industry benchmark, generating the highest annual sales productivity in the nation. Bal Harbour Shops was the first shopping center location that many famed European brands chose as the site for their first ventures outside of New York. Today, this “Shopping Hall of Fame” is home to more than 100 of the world’s most famous and most luxurious fashion and jewelry brands.
In 2012, Bal Harbour Shops topped the list as the world’s most productive shopping center, based on sales per square foot* and the top-selling retail center in the country according to Women’s Wear Daily. Bal Harbour Shops continues to remain an industry leader for more than half a century integrating a dynamic website with editorial content and a global following as well as engaging social media channels with over 500,000 followers. Though the opulence and style of Bal Harbour Shops was the embodiment of one man’s dream, the elder Whitman was fortunate to have his son Randy Whitman and grandson Matthew Whitman Lazenby to share his passion for this family owned and managed business.
*According to data compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers.