Making A Move

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An Aerial view of 27 Star Island shows the DeGarmo House before the move, and the building of the contemporary home

A 450-ton, 90-year-old Star Island mansion gets picked up and moved to make way for a modern home that will share the same space.
There are many reasons why Star Island is a place unlike anywhere else in the world — and a place where anything is possible.
Case in point — 27 Star Island, where a 450-ton historic house will be picked up and moved from the west side of the property and rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise so it faces south. Rather than demolish the 1925 Walter DeGarmo classic Mediterranean structure to make way for a new Tropical Modern residence, owner John Jansheski enlisted architects and experts to help him figure out how to have both co-exist on the 40,000-square-foot lot.
“This came to fruition several years ago,” says architect of record for 27 Star Island, Ralph Choeff of Miami-based architecture firm Choeff+Levy. More than two years of research and planning resulted in the plan to restore the historic home, and build a new concrete and glass modern home behind it on the waterfront.
“It has been a lot of work — it’s going to be a really interesting piece of property,” says Jansheski, who bought the property for $10.75 million in 2011. John’s brother, Mark, was the project manager on the challenging plan. “He put a lot of work into it,” says John.
There were a few deciding factors in keeping the historic home.”This is a home that you can’t really replicate. Also, it’s very unique to have a 1924 structure which will now have today’s technologies,” says the owner. One example, he says, is air conditioning. “There was no air conditioning when the home was built.”
And his mother, Gloria, who is of Italian heritage, loves the Mediterranean Revival
style, he says. “It’s exactly what she likes and she will be living with me at times,” says Jansheski, who turned his father’s ingenious invention — the Dental Pik — into DenTek, one of the world’s largest oral care companies.
“The idea that DeGarmo was the best architect of his time and we feel that the
architects that we are working with today are the best in class — so in essence, it will be two adjacent properties that represent the best of different eras. Any time you can have new and old together in one place, it is powerful, interesting, and compelling.”

The new home blurs the lines between outside and inside
The new home blurs the lines between outside and inside

Choeff says obtaining the original DeGarmo plans gave the architects an idea of what the house used to look like. Additionally, a video discovered on YouTube — and shot in 2001 at the home for the television show MTV Cribs that featured rapper Ja Rule — was instrumental in the team getting a look at some of the original details of the home. The video pans the outside of the home and goes inside into every room.
The main house was completed in 1924, and two years later, an “accessory structure” — which contained a two-car garage and second-floor caretakers’ quarters — was completed. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, additions — and what the preservation board called “superfluous adornments” — occurred to the structures, “somewhat distorting their original designs.”
Choeff says the additions have been removed — “they were not historic — and we are trying to restore the façade as close as possible to its original Walter DeGarmo plan.”
Jansheski’s “passion for the historic Degarmo estate” has won him fans from preservationists. Just about a year ago last January, Miami Beach commissioners decided that a Star Island residence, built in 1925, was not historically significant and therefore could be demolished by its owners. Leonard and Lisa Hochstein wanted to raze the residence in order to make way for a new 20,000-square-foot home. The dramatic fate of the house and the ensuing ba
ttle between the couple and the Miami Beach Preservation Board played out in multiple publications. “Because of the resistance with the 42 Star Island residence, it really wasn’t
prudent to tear down the home,” says Choeff.

The original house from 1924, remains untouched.
The original house from 1924, remains untouched.

“My goal is not to be the poster child for the historical society,” says Jansheski
about his decision to preserve the 1924 house. “What I’m doing i
s not too complicated beyond this: I like the old next to the new, and I like the fact that my
mother will enjoy the home.” Additionally, Jansheski says, he can justify the square footage with the city. According to the Miami Beach Historic Preservation staff report about Tesheski’s plans: “Because of the substantial restoration and preservation of the historic structure, the owner and architect are not limited to the 15-percent lot-coverage allowance on the 40,000-square-foot site that otherwise would be imposed if total demolition of the structures were
proposed.”

The old house will be moved to the front of the lot.
The old house will be moved to the front of the lot.

The old and new residences will also be “flood safe,” says Choeff. New residences on Star Island are required to be situated at a higher elevation than most other residential properties within Miami Beach; so the move of the historic home will put it at “about 10 feet above main sea level,” says Choeff.”This further ensures the historic home’s preservation.”
Jansheski, who splits his time between Knoxville, Tenn. — where DenTek is located — and Miami, chose Star Island because “there’s nothing like it. I like single-family detached homes, and here there are no interior lots; so every property is a waterfront property.”
Large rooms of Jansheski’s main residence, the contemporary home, will open out onto gardens, blurring the lines between outside and inside. This element was an important feature in DeGarmo’s design, and is now carried through in the modern design.
South African firm SAOTA worked with Choeff + Levy on the interior designs of both the historic home and the interior and exterior of the contemporary residence. “A lot of the materials and design elements that were thought out were designed by SAOTA,” says Choeff. “They took our original plans (for the contemporary residence), and then modified them slightly, and came up with their vision — according to John’s vision — of what the exterior should look like.”
Raphael Levy, architect on the project, says that moving the historic house is definitely unique, but that there are more challenges that aren’t so visible on the surface. “You have to design a new residence that melds into the historic residence, but keeps its own identity.”
The price tag of the project checks in at about a total of $20 million. It cost about $3 million to renovate and move the historic home. Jansheski bought the property in May 2011 for $10.75 million.

The rendering shows the the location of the contemporary home.
The rendering shows the the location of the contemporary home.
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