Structural engineer ‘concerned’ over RISE Doro emergency demolition, believes investigative work could be compromised

As the city of Jacksonville reviews a permit to tear down the RISE Doro apartment building, a structural engineer said the emergency demolition could mean a lot of investigative work now won’t happen.

With 20 years of experience as a structural engineer, Andres Lopera has helped lead rebuilding efforts for dozens of projects in Jacksonville.

Lopera said that normally, a fire investigator and structural engineer would go inside the building to figure out what started the fire before it could be torn down.

But now, we may never know.

Lopera said he has some concerns about how fast the city is starting the demolition process.

“So I design buildings, and then I also assess buildings after any sort of issues happened with a building, whether they’re collapse, whether there’s a fire damage, water damage, things like that,” Lopera said.

RELATED | A brief history of RISE Doro apartments, the $67M downtown complex that caught fire before opening | RISE developer says he ‘absolutely wants to see a rebuild’ after fire destroys Downtown apartment complex

News4JAX met Lopera at the site of the fire-gutted RISE Doro apartment building that’s under emergency demolition orders by the city.

“Right now, we don’t know what the intensity of the fire was in terms of duration. So that information would be helpful. But right now, what we know is that thousands of gallons of water were poured into the fire. So, we have a structural wood system that was weakened by fire. And then thousands of gallons of water poured into that. And then once that happens, the flooring system becomes weakened, and then the floor starts to collapse. And then the building normally collapses after that,” Lopera said.

Lopera believes the process of rebuilding may take one or two years. That’s if the builders use the same plans.

However, Lopera said rebuilding now is concerning as the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined.

“Because right now, we don’t know anything about how the fire started. And then we don’t have a structural assessment of what’s remaining of the building,” Lopera said.

MORE | $6M in city incentives likely off the table for owners after RISE Doro devastated by fire | RISE Doro hired a private company to conduct building inspections. How is that different from a city inspector?

City officials said a final pressure check inspection for the sprinkler system was scheduled for this week.

“That is a significant concern. Because if they go back in with the same exact plans, how do we know that same issue is not going to happen again?” Lopera said.

Until the demolition is completed, the roads and businesses around this building will have to stay shut down because of concerns that the building could collapse.

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