Bal Harbour Shops

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MIAMI BEACH—After five decades of looking for a creative way to expand Bal Harbour Shops, the Whitman family has come up with a solution—partnering with a church. Church by the Sea has agreed to sell the land at 501 96th St. to the luxury retail center owner. Church by the Sea has been located on the lot for nearly 70 years.

As part of the deal, Bal Harbour Shops is building a 50,000-square-foot, eco-friendly church on land that it owns at the intersection of Bal Bay Drive and Park Drive. The church relocation will allow Bal Harbour Shops to undergo a 200,000-square-foot expansion. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We reached a critical benchmark when the congregation voted in favor of the deal in June,” operating partner Matthew Whitman Lazenby, a third-generation Whitman family member involved in the business, said in a statement. “But we could not begin to move forward with our expansion plans until we had this binding agreement.”

According to the International Council of Shopping Center’s Shopping Center’s Today, Bal Harbour Shops ranks first internationally in terms of sales per square foot. Specifically, Bal Harbour Shops drives $2,555 per square foot in sales. That’s nearly seven times the estimated industry average of $451 per square foot.

The village of Bal Harbour wanted to see an agreement between the retail developer and the church before moving ahead with the approval process for the expansion. With the agreement in place, the Whitman family is working with Bal Harbour representatives to optimize the long-awaited expansion.

“My family and I have been in conversations with our neighbors, the Church by the Sea, for the better part of half a century,” noted Lazenby. “We are just delighted to have found a solution that allows the church to advance its mission, while affording us the opportunity to finally move forward with our long-awaited expansion.”

Robert Asinger, senior minister at Church by the Sea, says the objective during the process was to ensure the relocation would best serve the spiritual needs and minimize disruption to the congregation. The church’s design provides an outside play and worship area for small outdoor services, vigils, labyrinth walks, and weddings.

“The additional space will better accommodate the growing, socially-minded congregation and our burgeoning church school,” Asinger said. “Plus, it will open the door to a variety of new programs open to the public. The church also will be provided with free parking in the Bal Harbor Shops.”