Bal Harbour Shops has unveiled plans for a massive new residential project at their luxury mall north of Miami Beach. The project would reach a towering height of 275 feet, which is significantly higher than what current zoning rules allow, and it includes 600 high-end residential units, 70 hotel rooms, and over 45,000 square feet of additional retail space.
The project is seeking to bypass local zoning regulations using Florida’s Live Local Act, a new law that grants developers more rights when building affordable housing. Developers can avoid city council votes if they comply with other local regulations. This project aims to allocate 40% of its residential units for income-restricted “workforce housing,” meeting the minimum requirement under the law.
Notably, in 2021, nearly 90% of Bal Harbour voters rejected a proposal by the Shops to increase height limits.
Bal Harbour Mayor Jeffrey Freimark has received numerous complaints from residents about the project, citing concerns about increased traffic congestion in the village of 3,000 residents. On the other hand, Matthew Whitman Lazenby, CEO of the mall’s owner, believes the project will cater to workers in the hospitality, public safety, and medical industries who are struggling with housing affordability.
The project aims to meet the state’s definition of affordable housing by offering rents suitable for households making between 50% and 120% of the median annual income in their state or county.
Village attorneys are currently reviewing whether the project complies with the Live Local Act and a development agreement between the village and the Shops. While the law addresses height restrictions, it does not mention floor-area ratio (FAR), which determines square footage on a lot. The Shops are requesting a 133% increase in FAR, in addition to a 391% increase in height.
Miami State Senator Alexis Calatayud, who introduced the Live Local Act in 2023, has filed an updated bill to prevent local governments from restricting FAR. The project’s fate remains uncertain, with village officials skeptical about its approval and ground-breaking prospects.
In summary, Bal Harbour Shops’ ambitious residential project is causing controversy as it seeks to override zoning regulations under the Live Local Act, prompting concerns about its impact on traffic and local regulations. The project’s future remains uncertain pending further discussions and reviews.