By: Ismael Rodriguez

Only a year after the Village Council squashed a plan to sell Village Hall to make way for a $400 million expansion of the Bal Harbour Shops, a new proposal has won the initial approval of the council, awarding a long-sought victory for the luxury retail shopping center.

The Bal Harbour Village Council voted 4-1 in favor of a group of zoning changes and a development agreement for the multi-year expansion project at a public hearing that stretched from Tuesday night to the early hours of Wednesday morning last week.

Residents, Shops representatives and executives from Saks Fifth Avenue, an opposing force of the expansion, rallied in contentious debates for most of the night, ultimately resulting in a few written factors of the plan tweaked before the vote.

As a result, The Shops, owned by Whitman Family Development, agreed to pay for more off-duty police to work security through the year-long construction period, increase funds for a new bayfront park and provide a parking surcharge once the new garage is built, appealing to some residents who complained about the traffic.

“We are very pleased,” Matthew Whitman Lazenby, CEO of Whitman Family Development, told the press. “But the work continues.”

Supporters of the $400 million project believe the success of the village is tied to the success of the Shops and its ability to expand.

A second reading is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 16 at the Sea View Hotel, 9909 Collins Ave.