Home Business Legendary Bal Harbour Shops Founder, Stanley F. Whitman, Dies at 98

Legendary Bal Harbour Shops Founder, Stanley F. Whitman, Dies at 98

Stanley F. Whitman
Stanley Whitman (Image: Whitman Family Development)

Stanley F. Whitman, the visionary real estate developer and founder of Bal Harbour Shops, one of the world’s top-producing luxury shopping centers, has died at age 98. According to the Whitman family, he died peacefully of natural causes at his Miami Shores home on May 24, 2017, just one week after a long-planned $400-million expansion of Bal Harbour Shops was approved by the local council.

Born in Evanston, Illinois (just outside of Chicago) on November 15, 1918, Whitman spent the vast majority of his long life in, on, and around Greater Miami and the Beaches. Whitman attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he was the president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  At Duke, he would meet the love of his life, New Jersey native Dottie Stivers.

Following his graduation from Duke and with World War II in full swing, Whitman immediately joined the United States Navy’s officer training school, where, 90 days later, he emerged an Ensign.  As a Naval officer, he would eventually command a fleet of submarine chasers off of the Atlantic seaboard and would also become a revered Naval instructor.  He was honorably discharged in 1945 as a Lieutenant Commander.

During his time at sea, Whitman and Dottie married and they gave birth to their two children, son Randy and daughter Gwen, in 1943 and 1947 respectively.  Whitman believed strongly in the enduring importance of families and his wife and his children meant the world to him.  He was a fierce competitor in all things and carried his dogged determination with him both into the office and onto the tennis court.  He never, ever, ever gave up.  A life-long weight lifter and exercise enthusiast, Whitman made up in strength and in heart the athletic finesse that, in fairness, his wife may have better exemplified.  But this made them a formidable doubles team.

In 1946, Whitman became one of the original 25 incorporators of what would become The Village of Bal Harbour.  Returned from the war and armed with both the knowledge he gained helping his family lease its retail real estate holdings on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road and the seed money he needed from buying and selling large swaths of oceanfront property up and down Miami-Dade’s coastline, he partnered with the Village of Bal Harbour’s developer, Robert Graham, to build the business district in the fledgling, one-square mile town of Bal Harbour.  By 1965, now fully in control of the Bal Harbour business district property, having bought out Graham’s half-interest, Whitman presided over the opening of Bal Harbour Shops and for the next 51 years he kept making it better and better.

Whitman’s Bal Harbour Shops was a runaway success from the moment it opened its doors.  It was the first shopping center to focus exclusively on high end fashion stores.  It boasted both the first Neiman Marcus location outside of Texas and the first full line specialty department store in the state of Florida.  It was the first shopping center anywhere to feature both Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and was the first shopping center to be planned – from the outset – for both vertical and horizontal expansion.

Although his accomplishments as a businessman and developer are many, he considered his commitment to community paramount.  For his innumerable contributions to his community, both Miami-Dade County and the Village of Bal Harbour recognized “Stanley F. Whitman Day” in separate proclamations in 1998 and 2015, respectively, the Urban Land Institute presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, and the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him in 2016 its Leondard A. “Doc” Baker Lifetime Achievement Award.

He was predeceased by his wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Stivers Whitman, and his brothers, William “Bill” Francis Whitman and Dudley Allen Whitman.  He is survived by his son, Randall “Randy” Alan Whitman and daughter-in-law, Lana “Gigi” Whitman, his daughter, Gwen Whitman Lazenby and son-in-law, Robert Alfred Lazenby, grandchildren Lori Lazenby Faison and her husband, Gregory Brent Faison, Matthew Whitman Lazenby and his wife, Kristin Arbuckle Lazenby, Riley Stanley Whitman, Katie Dorothy Ann Whitman, great-grandsons Robert “Boyd” Faison, William Whitman Lazenby, Matthew “Clayton” Lazenby, and Robert “Stephen” Lazenby, and long-time aide and cherished friend, Baron Hutchinson.  A memorial service is being planned and further details will be announced when available.

SOURCE Whitman Family Development

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