Five days after a fire ravaged the soon-to-open Rise Doro apartment complex, crews have begun the weeks-long process of tearing down the $65 million structure after the city declared it a total loss.
Heavy equipment from ELEV8 Demolition of Jacksonville began the teardown early Friday, beginning high atop the Lafayette Street side as a crane with a dragon-like set of jaws tore into the melted Rise Doro sign.
As the walls came tumbling down under the crane’s assault, Manifest Distilling Vice President Jim Webb stood nearby. The city has shut down his distillery and bar, as well as the Intuition Ale House on the East Forsyth Street side of the burned-out building, over fears of the building’s walls collapsing.
Gazing at the demolition across from the Manifest loading dock, Webb said all seven of his employees were paid Friday and will continue to get paychecks every two weeks. The city allowed staff inside only briefly to turn off equipment, while JEA cut power, and gas lines were shut down too.
Right now, no one knows when the city will let them back inside or if the fire and smoke has damaged the distilled liquor inside or brewed next door at Intuition.
“The barrels we have will be fine — the smoke’s not going to permeate them unless it was like sitting in it for days and days,” Webb said. “I would be concerned about any kind of stuff at Intuition more than us. Then there’s weird stuff — our napkins might be ruined because they are filled with smoke from burning pressure-treated lumber. That’s not applewood barbecue.”
Representatives of Intuition could not be reached for comment. Owner Ben Davis told The Florida Times Union that employees are salaried and also will be paid during the downtime.
The 247-unit apartment building between A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and Lafayette Street was due to open in early March. The city had been set to test its fire sprinkler system this week as the first eight tenants planned to move in. The multiuse building had a rooftop bar and swimming pool, plus other amenities, built around the core of a concrete parking garage, according to officials from Rise: A Real Estate Co.
The fire was first reported about 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters believed it was under control by about 11 p.m., but it flared up again and brought 110 firefighters to the scene, officials said. Firefighters continued to battle hotspots as late as Thursday morning as the city approved an emergency demolition permit.
“To me, it’s devastating on so many different levels,” said Webb, the Manifest Distilling vice president. “Firstly, it’s so sad — businesswise it’s sad. This was part of the momentum of people moving Downtown and bringing more excitement down here, and it’s been three years in the making. I can’t imagine how devastating and heartbroken the workers are that built this thing, and now it’s going to be torn down.”
Demolition will proceed through the weekend and into next week, with a daily 10-hour shift, city spokesman Phil Perry said. The work will not affect Saturday’s Donna 5k charity marathon, based at EverBank Stadium.
The Rise Doro website has posted updates on the building, stating that the estimated timeline for demolition is eight to 10 weeks. As Webb watched the crane pull more wall chunks off, fully built kitchens became visible. New stoves sat under microwaves in white and gray kitchen cabinets.
The demolition will remove the wood-framed portions of the structure, leaving the concrete foundation and concrete parking garage intact for the planned redevelopment of the building, Rise officials have said. Rise also says city engineers have determined that the parking garage portion of the structure is sound.
No one has been allowed inside the wood frame portions of the building due to the danger of collapse, Perry said. So no cause of the blaze has been determined.
The state fire marshal’s office stated that the “fire investigation remains open and ongoing at this time,” with no further details available.
Lead image: A crane from ELEV8 tears pieces of wall off the Rise Doro facade on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Kitchens with stoves and cabinets are visible inside. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9