The oldest Doro Fixtures Company Building was constructed in 1903-04. It may be the last surviving commercial storefront building from the 19th century suburb of East Jacksonville.
Born in Rhode Island, George Doro was once so popular that he had a sandwich named after him. Served in downtown, the George Doro Special was a popular sandwich made of thick turkey, cheese and pastrami, slaw and Russian dressing. Arriving in town after World War I, he acquired an East Jacksonville commercial building completed right after the Great Fire of 1901, and built a millwork enterprise that would last until 2016.
Although there are historic structure forms on the Florida Master Site File for the oldest Doro building identifying it as potentially eligible for preservation at both the local and national level, the Downtown Development Review Board is poised to provide final design approval to an infill project that will require its demolition.
Rise Properties, a Valdosta-based development firm, is proposing to construct a new eight-story, 247-unit mixed-use apartment project featuring retail and structured parking on the property. Rise intends to break ground on the project, designed by Atlanta-based Niles Bolton Associates, by the end of summer. Despite being identified for its local historic significance on multiple historic structure forms dating back to the 1980s, a Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) staff report for the project mentions the building is not eligible for preservation:
DDRB Application 2020-005 seeks Final Approval for the construction of a new 8-story, 247-unit mixed-use development project which will include a courtyard, a roof deck amenity space and interior parking. The site is approximately 1.63 acres, comprised of seven (7) buildings constructed between 1914 and 1954; located within the Sports and Entertainment Overlay District; and bounded by East Forsyth Street (closed right-of-way) to the south, East Adams Street to the north, A. Philip Randolph to the east and Lafayette Street to the west. Over the years, the original 1914 structure was added onto with additional buildings seamed together by their interiors. However, what is commonly referred to as the Doro Fixture Building is the original 1914 structure located on the corner of A. Philip Randolph and East Adams Street. Although a fixture to the area, according to the Planning and Development Department’s Historic Preservation Section, the property is not part of the Downtown National Register District, nor was it deemed eligible by the State Historic Preservation Office for individual designation.
Therefore, staff is comfortable moving forward with the development plan approval, seeing that the question of historical significance of the building seems to have been both asked and answered by the agencies governing such historic designations. That said, there are design features of the proposed building that are important to maintain. The original Doro Fixture Co. building had a store-front facade with predominant ground floor windows and an entrance at the intersection of A. Philip Randolph and East Adams Street. Over the years, the entrance was enclosed, and the style of windows was altered. The pedestrian engagement created by the original building is being reintroduced by the proposed design, as more fully discussed in this report.
An overlay of the original Doro Fixtures Building with the proposed Doro mixed-used development.
Despite the omission of the building’s potential eligibility for a local landmark designation resulting in a chain of events that may end with demolition, the developer has recently worked to attempt to pay homage to the original Doro building in the project’s latest plan.
At the March DDRB meeting there was substantial discussion from both the Board and the public on preserving, if not in total then in parts, the Doro Fixtures building facade, particularly at the intersection of A. Philip Randolph and Adams Street. While DDRB staff both understands and appreciates this sentiment, the question as to whether the building meets the standards for preservation, in part or in whole, has been answered by both the State Historic Preservation Office and the Historic Preservation Section of the Planning and Development Department. The fact of the matter is that the property is not part of the Downtown National Historic District and was not deemed eligible individually for the national register by the State Historic Preservation Officer. That said, based on feedback from the DDRB, the developer pursued a demolition permit in an effort to force the question as to whether the Historic Preservation Section would object to demolition of the structure(s); permit B-20-282464.00 has been noted by the Historic Preservation Section that no historic review is required. Consequently, from that perspective the entire site could be razed.
There are elements of the building, particularly within the urban open space at A. Philip Randolph and Adams Street, that have been carried through in the design. Specifically, the painted white brick pattern, windows and the green window frames that line the urban open space interior are a nod to the Doro building. There was also discussion regarding the storefront feel of the original Doro building being carried through in the design. Although the original storefront has been replaced with an urban open space, there is a substantial retail presence maintained in the design along A. Philip Randolph, it has just shifted south to the intersection of A. Philip Randolph and the former Forsyth Street right-of-way. Contextually speaking, shifting retail south, particularly with the incorporation of substantial glazing and functional pivot windows, makes sense as the building to the south has transitioned from warehouse / industrial space to storefront retail (e.g. Manifest Distillery, Intuition Ale Works).
This rendering illustrates the developer’s plans include an open area with painted white brick and windows with green window frames as a nod to the oldest Doro building.
With these changes, DIA staff is recommending the project receive final design approval at the DDRB’s May 14th virtual board meeting. Although Rise has already applied for a demolition permit, ultimately the project will require an unknown amount of public incentives to become financially feasible. With that in mind, the developer plans to apply for a City of Jacksonville-backed REV grant in addition to savings obtained from the site being located in an Opportunity Zone.
**Next Page: The Doro DDRB Final Approval Presentation **