Demolition of fire-gutted RISE Doro building looms as some express concerns over timing

Crews are setting up equipment and preparing to tear down the Rise Doro apartment building following a massive fire that sparked Sunday night and was still smoldering Wednesday.

The city of Jacksonville approved an emergency demolition permit for the 80-foot-tall structure.

The permit names ELEV8 Demolition of Jacksonville as the contractor for the $1 million project to tear down the fire-gutted building, as first reported by News4JAX news partner the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Mayor Donna Deegan said this week that city engineers determined the building was unstable and that the wood-framed portions would need to be demolished. It has not been determined yet when that demolition will start.

The company plans to use excavators to tear down the building as well as a crane with a boom or arm of more than 100 feet, according to the permit that was filed Tuesday. The concrete garage and foundation will remain.

News4JAX stopped by Elev8 Demolition off Hecksher Drive on Wednesday. Workers said they would be issuing a public statement about the process.

The apartment building, which sits on 1.38 acres along A. Philip Randolph Boulevard between Adams and Forsyth streets, was supposed to open to its first eight tenants this weekend.

But now the more than $60 million project will be taken back down to its foundation, and those tenants must move elsewhere.

RELATED: A brief history of RISE Doro apartments, the $67M downtown complex that caught fire before opening | What’s next for the downtown apartment building marred by devastating fire? | Wood-frame construction, like what was used in RISE Doro, is common in Florida because of its cost. But there are risks

The fire weakened the seven-story building’s wooden structure. As thousands of gallons of water poured onto the building to overpower the flames, the flooring became compromised and made the building unstable.

Several walls have blown out and at least one floor collapsed.

Greg Davis, a demolition expert who owns the company, told News4JAX Tuesday that engineers will manage how it’s safely brought down.

“When I think demolition, because I know nothing about it, I think bring in a big ball and start knocking it down. It’s not that simple. It’s not that simple because of the different types of materials in the building. Fire hazard, water damage. So it has a bunch of different layers that have to be assessed to make sure they’re demolishing it in the right way because there is a lot of regulations,” Davis said.

The demolition crew and the city want to make sure the building comes down safely, but just how fast this is all happening is drawing some criticism.

One structural engineer News4JAX spoke with says some investigative work probably will not happen now.

Usually, fire investigators and structural engineers go inside a building to determine the cause of a fire and conduct as many assessments as they can. That is just not possible in this scenario because the RISE Doro building is not safe for anyone to enter, including the firefighters who battled the blaze for days.

The city also wants the building to come down quickly so work to rebuild can begin.

Andres Lopera, a structural engineer who has worked on several rebuilding projects in Jacksonville, explained what would typically be determined during a fire assessment.

“I would be looking for where the fire originally started, and then I would be looking for how much of the cross-sections of all of the materials were affected,” said Lopera, president of Oracle Engineering. “The cross-sections are basically the side of the lumber. I would be looking at basically from side to side of the building, all of the structural components. That is like the walls, the exterior walls, any interior low, bearing walls, the flooring system in any rooms or structural beams.”

RELATED: RISE developer says he ‘absolutely wants to see a rebuild’ after fire destroys Downtown apartment complex | Timeline: Luxury apartment complex in Downtown Jacksonville goes up in flames weeks before opening

Then the demolition process is mapped out.

“The process of demolition is: First, they do an assessment, and then they figure out if there are any hazardous materials in the building,” Lopera said. “Then they remove all of those materials. After that, they determine what plan they will use to bring down the building, whether it is going to be with explosives or with an excavator, and then they will figure out how they’re going to go about doing that step-by-step and also a plan of how to dispose of all the materials. Then after that, the building comes down.”

Until the building is torn down, roads and businesses surrounding the property will remain closed because of concerns the building could collapse.

The devastating fire initially sparked around 9:30 p.m. Sunday on the building’s sixth floor. No injuries were reported in the fire, which is still under investigation.

City officials said they learned that the building’s fire sprinkler system did not activate because a final pressure check inspection had not been completed. It was scheduled for this week.

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