Dennis Trotter has a 120,000-square-foot blank canvas he wants to fill.
But it’s not a work of art he wants to create, unless you count the art of the deal.
“There is no other building downtown with this much contiguous space in this kind of location,” said Trotter, who represents the owner of the former Fort Discovery property. “This would be ideal for a large institutional client, such as a school.”
The former science center site has been stripped to bare concrete floors and drywall-encased columns to make way for its next occupant. All that remains of Fort Discovery is the 35-foot “Gravichron” clock, which towers over the lobby escalators, and a periscope, now hidden in a new column.
“It would have taken a big crane and a crew with a cutting torch to get that out of there,” said Trotter, a partner in the commercial real estate firm Jordan Trotter. “Some of these exhibits were not meant to be moved.”
The other major remnant is the former Paul S. Simon Discovery Theater, which still takes up a corner of the second floor.
“There is a lot of advanced technology in that theater,” Trotter said. “We left that totally intact.”
He said the 250-seat theater would be great for corporate training or other educational uses.
Who might want to move in is anyone’s guess.
Trotter said there have been some nibbles and negotiations behind the scenes, but nothing is certain.
Moshe Silagi, the California real estate developer who purchased the property in January 2012 for about $2 million, said last week that he has several prospective tenants but none that have to do with retail.
“We are looking more toward professional usage that will blend in, such as a call center or a large professional group,” Silagi said.
He said even if papers were signed today, it would take at least six months to prepare the space for occupancy.
Trotter said there would need to be significant investment in refitting the space for offices or classrooms. He estimated the least anyone could spend would be $30 per square foot.
“You could spend $3 million in a second,” he said. “That’s an entry-level price.”
Though that might seem like a lot, Trotter said it is the kind of investment a company would expect to pay for such a unique space on the Savannah River. Also, whoever moves in would be staying for the long haul.
Whoever it may be, Trotter is optimistic that the next occupant will bring big changes to this end of the city.
“That building is large enough that the right user can really act as a catalyst for a change in downtown Augusta,” he said.