Miami Beach

How to move a mansion: Star Island DeGarmo house is getting a new home

This is an aerial view of the 27 Star Island.
This is an aerial view of the 27 Star Island. Alberto Sanchez and Romain Maurice

Among the posh mansions that line the shores of Star Island, number 27 stands as a testament to longevity.

The 10,000-square-foot home is named Casa Di Paolo by its designer, famed architect Walter DeGarmo. Built in a Mediterranean style with several archways, mosaic tile interior and colored roof tiles, some call it a “mini-Vizcaya.” It has stood on Miami Beach’s exclusive island since 1925.

Right now, it stands a little taller than it used to — about four feet taller, to be exact.

The 425-ton home is sitting on 12 large hydraulic dollies, each weighing 50 tons, in advance of its short trip to another side of the lot next week. In a project that aims to preserve the historic home while opening room for a new waterfront manse, workers are rotating Casa Di Paolo and attaching it to a separate garage closer to the street. All this is to make way for new 20,000-square-foot residence on the waterfront.

Owner John Jansheski bought the house for $10.75million in May 2011 and put it on the market the following year. He eventually decided to work on keeping the old home and building himself a new one at the same time — a rare example of a homeowner going a route that pleases the city and the preservationist community.

Making everyone happy hasn’t always been easy. Last year, a contentious battle surrounded the future of another 1925 DeGarmo home at 42 Star Island, owned by Leonard Hochstein, a plastic surgeon who calls himself the “boob god,” and his wife Lisa Hochstein, a star of The Real Housewives of Miami. In the end, the Hochsteins won and were able to tear down the old home to build a 20,000-square-foot mansion.

Jansheski followed the saga. He wanted to take a different approach.

“It was a bit of the path of least resistance, because the city and the preservation folks have a very strong attachment to preserving historic homes,” he said. “And I got a little emotionally attached to the house.”

Jansheski, founder of Dentek Oral Care, went to his brother Mark to manage the project. Together, along with an architectural team featuring Choeff+Levy and South Africa-based Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects, the team developed a plan.

The move

At the outset, Mark Jansheski joked that moving the house would be easy.

“It’s a little bit like Tinkertoys,” he quipped. “You just pick this up and move it over there.”

While the simple concept is the same, the execution is a little more complicated.

First, Casa Di Paolo is losing some of the extras that were built decades after the original 1925 structure. A free-standing garage and residential wing built decades after the original home have been knocked down.

Then, the house has to be fitted with a grid of large steel beams underneath. The beams used for this move, pushed through the holes made in the foundation, are stronger than the industry standard.

“It allows the masonry structure to not be broken apart,” he said.

John said they made castings of the several design features inside in case they get damaged during the move.

“So if anythings breaks during the move, we can replace with the original design,” he said.

Then the house is raised using hydraulic jacks, and the dollies are installed under the steel beams. Each hydraulic dolly has a ram that is controlled to keep the structure level.

To make this project work, the house has been rotated 90 degrees so the portion that used to lead to the newer residential wing will be attached to the back end of the garage/caretaker’s residence, which also will be moved slightly. The new combined structure will be at the front of the property and at a higher elevation to comply with the city’s new flood elevation requirements.

On Tuesday, the dollies will carry the house across the property to its new foundation, clearing a swath closer to the water for a the new mansion. Workers expect to break ground on the new home in January.

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