RISE president ‘broke down’ the first time he drove over Hart Bridge, saw his $60M complex destroyed by fire

Greg Blais, president of the company that built RISE Doro, said in his 29 years in development, he’s never had a situation like what unfolded last month when his $60 million apartment complex caught fire and was destroyed just days before it was set to open in downtown Jacksonville.

Now Blais is back to square one.

Blais met with News4JAX on Wednesday morning at the site of the apartment complex which is in the process of being demolished and recounted his emotions that night.

“Heartbroken. Obviously, there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears over the last three years developing a project that we’re all very, very proud of,” Blais said. “And if you can imagine getting that call late Sunday night, early Monday morning, and reading text messages as your phone’s blowing up on the nightstand and seeing what the words are saying to you in those messages, I thought we were living a nightmare. And then you come down here and see everything.”

(Watch the entire interview with Blais by clicking the video player below)

Blais said he’s doing fine now.

“A couple of weeks have passed. You know, our team members at Rise are certainly affected by this as well. I feel for all the specific team members who worked on this every day over the last three years. My heart really goes out to those folks. You can rebuild buildings and that’s what we intend to do, and we’ll get past this. But right now, it’s been tough,” he said.

RELATED: A brief history of RISE Doro apartments, the $60M 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

Blais said there was one moment when he realized the magnitude of what happened.

“You know, when you see the pictures that were sent to me, you know, through the course of the night and then getting over here early on Monday morning and seeing it with your own eyes and coming over the Hart Bridge, you know, I mean, I just, I literally just broke down,” he said. “You know, you see something that’s so close to you and your company and to see it devastated and the tragedy, you know, that revolves around it.”

Blais said RISE stands for eight attributes: Reasonable, reliable, inspired, impactful, serve and simplify, experienced and empowering.

“That means something to me and everyone that works within the company,” he said. “And when you put your name on something, you hold yourself accountable, not only to yourself and your team members, but everybody in the community.”

“We are a Christian-based company,” Blais continued. “We are not shy about our values. It’s in our mission statement. You know, as I mentioned in the initial press release, when the fire was still burning behind us that Monday evening, our motto is to love, serve and care. And that’s what we are going to do all the time.”

Blais said every project means something to him.

“You’re you’re overtaken by something that, you know, you fall in love with your projects. They all mean something very, very important to what we’re trying to accomplish. We were going to impact a ton of families living down here in this amazing sports district of downtown Jacksonville and taking and understanding the good that can be done through creating residences, creating experiences, allowing other families to call your facility home,” Blais said. “It does get emotional because we’re right at the impetus of having people be able to call this place home. And then the unfortunate fire broke out.”

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

Blais said his company is still going through the process, but there are still plans to rebuild.

“This is still relatively new,” he said. “We are working through the investigation. We’re working through the insurance processes and but with all the goal in mind of of again, calling Doro home someday.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The demolition of the building is expected to take weeks to complete.

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