Nearly 50 years ago, real estate developer Stanley Whitman did something that many in the real estate and retail industry thought would never work; he built the first luxury shopping center with all high-end retailers -- eliminating service providers -- and opened without anchor stores. Even more amazing, he charged a minimum of $5 per square foot, at a time when the national average was a little more than $1.50. And, despite the popular trend of the era for building big box enclosed malls with air conditioning, Whitman told his architect to design an al fresco center.
His critics said he was destined to fail, but Stanley Whitman proved them wrong. Today, Bal Harbour Shops is the most successful luxury mall, not only in the U.S., but in the world, according to productivity data compiled in the September issue of Shopping Centers Today, based on average sales per square foot. The lavishly productive Bal Harbour Shops earns nearly $2,700 per square foot, which is more than six times the International Council of Shopping Centers' estimated $451 per square foot industry average, notes the September cover story.
Whitman, 94, continues to come to work and is involved in planning and strategy as the mall prepares for expansion. However, over the years he has entrusted the day-to-day responsibilities of leasing and management -- first to his son Randy, and later to his grandson, Matthew Whitman Lazenby.
On Jan. 17, from 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., three generations of the Whitman family will discuss their remarkable journey during a meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers at ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa - 10295 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour.
Each will discuss the role they have played in the mall's achievements. Randy Whitman, who joined the family business in 1974, was instrumental in the success of the mall's second-floor addition by enticing European designer brands to open their first mall stores. The addition of the upper level in 1983 increased the number of retailers to more than 100 luxury brands.
Matthew Whitman Lazenby, who started as the director of leasing in 2003, now focuses on the big picture for the planned expansion. In September, Bal Harbour Shops signed an option agreement with longtime neighbor Church by the Sea to acquire its land and relocate the church to a new state-of-the-art facility. Bal Harbour Shops will use the land to add 200,000-square-feet of retail space and approximately 50 tenants.
While Stanley Whitman has always been a proponent of smaller, more intimate stores, demand for larger retail space has become of paramount importance to the high-end fashion labels that are known for their prestigious flagship locations in top markets around the world. The Whitman strategy has always been to respond to market demands -- whether it's retailers or customers. Today, retailers are demanding more space and the planned expansion allows Bal Harbour Shops to accommodate those requirements.