JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — These photos must have meant something to someone, these framed portraits left behind Inside downtown's old Doro Fixture building. Three appear to be high school graduation pictures, perhaps from the 1980s, judging by the feathered haircuts. Others show smiling babies, chubby-cheeked and cherubic.
But when the business shut down, they were left behind inside the reception area, just above the fax machine and next to wire baskets that will never see another letter or invoice.
In nearby offices, there were piles of rolled-up plans for the wooden business cabinets, shelves and fixtures that used to be built there. And in the warren of workshops that sprawl toward the back there was old office furniture and a few of the machines — a laminating machine, an industrial saw— that made Doro's fixtures.
An abandoned Pepsi machine and a "Now Hiring" sign seeking "experienced cabinet makers" remained visible in a window behind open blinds.
Earlier this week, morning rain dripped in through holes cut in the roof by firefighters, puddling on the concrete floors. During a week of training, firefighting crews had made good use of the abandoned building, which — despite the concerns of some preservationists — is making way for a modern eight-story apartment building.
It will have about 240 apartments, with ground-floor restaurant and retail space and rooftop pool and lounge, that will face the Sports Complex district.
Its name will be The Doro, in a nod to the business that operated there for almost a century until it closed in 2016.
The Doro Fixtures building began coming down this week under the hungry jaws of construction equipment, beginning at the back, a single-story concrete block addition facing the Maxwell House plant.
The demolition will eventually make its way up to the original two-story facade, more than 100 years old and prized by preservationists, that fronts A. Philip Randolph Boulevard.
Some argued that the building shouldn't be torn down completely. But as the structure lacks any historical designation, work in tearing it down has gone ahead.
The Downtown Development Review staff’s summary of the project said the Doro Fixture building is not part of the Downtown National Register District, and the State Historic Preservation Office determined the building is not eligible for individual designation.
Keith Miller, senior superintendent on the project for developer RISE: A Real Estate Co., said he expects four weeks of demolition, six or seven weeks of ground improvements for foundation work and then 22 months of construction.
Anticipating flooding in the low-lying area, a large vault designed to hold and then release rising water will be installed on part of the ground floor.
The Doro, Miller said, is a "cornerstone" project for RISE, which is based in Valdosta, Ga. The company is also building a large apartment complex in the Julington Creek area and has plans for other projects in the city.
The downtown project, though, will be its most visible, due to its location near the Sports Complex that can draw thousands of people for games and other events.
In one direction, Manifest Distilling is next door, with Intuition Ale Works next to that. In the other direction, just across the street, is the entrance to the Jumbo Shrimp's baseball park, with the Jaguars stadium, the Daily's Place amphitheater and VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena within an easy walk.
For a while it looked as if the area could have been even busier.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and a development company had planned to build a development on Lot J next to the football stadium, an entertainment district with hundreds of new hundreds of new apartments, a hotel and an office building.
That project is defunct, for now, after the developers failed to strike a financial deal with the city. But RISE, Miller said, was planning to go ahead with The Doro all along, "with or without" Lot J.
On the second day of demolition, Miller, a genial and patient host, led a reporter and photographer through the abandoned building, stepping through puddles and cautioning about termite-damaged wooden steps.
He explained how an eight-story parking garage for residents will be built first, following by apartments that will wrap around three sides of the garage. On the roof will be a swimming pool and a fitness area for residents, along with a bar overlooking downtown. On the ground floor there will be two-story lofts along with space for eating and shopping.
The Doro will be an upscale project, Miller said, designed to attract young professionals to the area.
He showed off old sliding fire doors in one of the work areas, designed to close automatically in case of fire. Those doors are among some of the artifacts of Doro Fixture that RISE plans to save, even after the building is gone, just to show residents a little of what went on there for more than nine decades.
“These fire doors, we’ll put into the retail space or something. Just as a reminder of what used to be here," he said. "We’ve got quite a few hand tools and things from the period that we can try to integrate into the design. What they’re going to do with it is way above my pay grade. We've got designers, decorators."