Fort Discovery drawing interest

The expansive riverfront home of the defunct Fort Discovery museum doesn't have a new owner yet, but there are some solid prospects.

"We have four very viable groups looking at it," said Rob Dennis, the chief executive officer of the National Science Center, which closed the 125,000-square-foot attraction in December after announcing plans to move the organization to Washington, D.C.

The property, which includes a theater, restaurants and other amenities, is listed at $5.5 million, he said.

Officials had hoped to complete a sale during the first quarter of 2011. Now the goal is to have it sold by the end of June.

Dennis said he could not identify potential buyers, but believes any of them could transform the property into something beneficial for Augusta.

Among the four current suitors, "two have similar re-purposing thoughts, and one of them is educational," Dennis said. "The fourth hasn't discussed details of their plans."

The National Science Center, created in 1985, opened Fort Discovery in April 1997 to support the center's mission of improving interest in math, science and technology among younger pupils.

The group's restructuring plan included the move to Washington, but does not include any future plan to operate a museum.

Dennis said efforts to find a permanent new home in Washington remain incomplete.

"Right now our board's position is, we have so much going on at home, we need to be here awhile longer," he said.

Also under way are efforts to find homes for the dozens of interactive exhibits and displays still in the Fort Discovery property.

"We're still working out a lot of those details with the state of Georgia," Dennis said, adding that many exhibits were financed with a $10 million allocation from Georgia's Department of Education and other state sources.

The center is a unique partnership between National Science Center Inc., a nonprofit organization, and the Army.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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