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Owner of former Fort Discovery site has space to fill

Fort Discover stripped to bare floors, columns

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Dennis Trotter has a 120,000-square-foot blank canvas he wants to fill.

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The approximately 122,000-square-foot interior has been stripped, leaving only a few murals and installations from Fort Discovery.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
The approximately 122,000-square-foot interior has been stripped, leaving only a few murals and installations from Fort Discovery.

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.

TIMELINE

FEB. 7, 1986: Construction begins on the first Savannah River levee breach at Eighth Street. U.S. Rep. Doug Barnard pushed through federal legislation undoing a 19th-century law to allow the breach, which American City Corp. determined was crucial to making the riverwalk work.

NOV. 24, 1987: Port Royal Associates and French investors unveil plans to develop an $18 million, three-tower complex along the river called Port Royal, which will include condominiums, a shopping center and a hotel. The project is the brainchild of Augusta resident Edouard Servy, an internationally renowned reproductive endocrinologist. Construction begins 10 months later.

MAY 7, 1991: Grand opening of Port Royal, now a $45 million project that includes 56 condominiums in an 18-story, salmon-colored high-rise along the river, along with 128,000 square feet of retail space. The Shoppes of Port Royal mall opens two days later. Retailers begin shutting down within a year, and, during the first two years, only seven of the $400,000 luxury condos sell.

NOVEMBER 1995: The state Board of Education agrees to transfer $10 million in lottery money to help fund Fort Discovery construction.

APRIL 23, 1997: A dedication ceremony is held for Fort Discovery, located in what used to be The Shoppes of Port Royal, three years after Augusta Chronicle publisher William S. Morris III bought the mall and announced plans to offer it to the National Science Center’s long-proposed science museum project. The project received $13 million in state and local government money, and a private fund-raising campaign netted an additional $6.5 million.

JUNE 2004: The center cuts two-thirds of the staff and reduces hours when state funds are delayed.

AUGUST 2009: Fort Discov­ery announces plans to restructure and change its mission.

DEC. 31, 2010: Fort Discovery closes for good.

JANUARY 2012: After more than a year on the market, the 120,000-square-foot property at 1 Seventh St. is purchased for $2.1 million by California businessman Moshe Silagi.

Source: Augusta Chronicle archives

Comments (18) Add comment
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Riverman1
93492
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Riverman1 01/20/13 - 07:56 pm
5
0
Reminds me of Regency Mall.

Reminds me of Regency Mall.

Gage Creed
19395
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Gage Creed 01/20/13 - 09:31 pm
3
1
Reminds me of the Regency

Reminds me of the Regency Inn....and other pipe dreams

Riverman1
93492
Points
Riverman1 01/21/13 - 04:59 am
6
1
What Commissioner explained

What Commissioner explained why we couldn't renovate Fort Discovery before the TEE Center vote and use it instead of spending $100 million?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 01/21/13 - 09:54 am
4
0
3 million doesn't leave as

3 million doesn't leave as much room for creativity, financially speaking of course.

Just My Opinion
6251
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Just My Opinion 01/21/13 - 10:28 am
3
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I think they should put in

I think they should put in another Mexican restaurant! I don't think Augusta has enough of them! Do y'all remember when there was only one Mexican restaurant here in Augusta (that I knew of), and that was out on Gordon Highway...and back then, we thought it took an hour to drive out to it!

Little Lamb
48966
Points
Little Lamb 01/21/13 - 10:38 am
4
0
Sancho’s

Was that Sancho’s Restaurant?

Little Lamb
48966
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Little Lamb 01/21/13 - 10:40 am
3
0
Fire Protection

From the story:

The former science center site has been stripped to bare concrete floors and drywall-encased columns to make way for its next occupant.

Yeah, but do they have to maintain their fire suppression system like Regency Mall did?

soapy_725
44110
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soapy_725 01/21/13 - 10:56 am
1
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Another CBD and ARC private enterprise.....
Unpublished

that became a tax supported joke. Its a "sore eye, sore eye". The Awful Tower. You cannot trust a single member of the ARC leadership. Grants, tax write offs, second hand donations to charities, cost overruns, mismanagement, etc. But like always, the money men make millions and the taxpayers pay the bill. We have an idea!!! Lets create a new CBD Mall. LOL LOL

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 01/21/13 - 11:17 am
2
1
Curious...

I thought Countyman has been telling us there was already something being built there?

MarinerMan
2107
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MarinerMan 01/21/13 - 12:10 pm
2
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Ah Sancho's...
Unpublished

Yes, those were the days. Came to a halt when they received a 47 health score. Stories about the place had been told, even prior to that. @LL - they still have power @ the Fort Discovery building. And the thieves have not tried to steal the air conditioning hardware -- YET. Would love to see what Regency Mall looks like now that it has been stripped. I'll post a link to some pictures that sure brought back memories of Regency Mall before the hoodlums took over and ran it into the ground. I was so surprised @ how much natural light beamed into the old girl...

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/21/13 - 12:58 pm
2
0
Yall remember Gringo

Yall remember Gringo Carrerra's in there? They had the little golf green putting game and Keith Gregory use to play, plus all the sizzling fajitas you could shake a stick at.

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 01/21/13 - 02:34 pm
1
0
Regency Mall Pictures
Unpublished

Sorry for the delay. Here's a blog that is all about closed malls across the country. Here is the blog on Regency Mall...

http://skycity2.blogspot.com/2011/01/regency-mall-part-1-augusta-ga.html

countyman
21630
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countyman 01/21/13 - 04:15 pm
1
2
The TEE Center is only $38

The TEE Center is only $38 million, and not the imaginary $100 million figure.

GageCreed... Don't hide from the Chronicle when the Holiday Inn breaks ground, and the Discovery Plaza building attracts something.

GnipGnop... I clearly said the building was purchased by an private developer.

Little Lamb
48966
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Little Lamb 01/21/13 - 04:23 pm
0
0
Great Blogspot

That was a wonderful journey into nostalgia. Thanks for finding and linking that blog, MarinerMan. The commentary from the blogger (who is not from here) is excellent. I had forgotten how interesting the nooks and crannies of Regency Mall were. They had a stage in there where choruses would sing and bands would play. My children played in a school "kazoo band" there for some holiday a long time ago.

I bought a lot of records, tapes and CDs in Camelot Music. I saw the Star Trek movie where Spock entered the reactor to save the Enterprise and sacrifice himself at the old cinema there.

karradur
2878
Points
karradur 01/21/13 - 04:27 pm
0
1
From what I was told by a

From what I was told by a former staff member of Fort Discovery (and believe me, nobody has the whole story about what really happened there, it's hilariously sad), the space is unusable for the TEE Center because they wanted to remove the support columns all around the facility, which cannot be removed or the whole second floor will collapse. It's interesting that the theater is intact; it was probably the most up-to-date thing in the entire building and it really is a wonderful theater that deserves a lot better. I had the pleasure of being shown around "behind the scenes" one time and it's very nice.

And I'd really like to know what Fort Discovery's CEO is doing these days.

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 01/21/13 - 05:23 pm
0
0
Sorry Countyman...

I can't keep up with everything you post.

Riverman1
93492
Points
Riverman1 01/21/13 - 05:52 pm
1
1
$100 Million

We not only have the TEE Center, we have the management, maintenance money, parking deck and Laney Walker payoffs as one Commissioner described it in exchange for the TEE approval. Our best hope for Fort Discovery is a call center? My how our expectations have dropped since the Port Royal days.

But speaking of the TEE...when does it open?

Gage Creed
19395
Points
Gage Creed 01/21/13 - 08:08 pm
0
1
Not to worry countyman...I'll

Not to worry countyman...I'll be here putting realistic numbers to your inflated ones.... How's that employee count at biofuel plant on Dixon Airline road coming? And that long suffering addition to US Battery?

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 01/21/13 - 08:45 pm
1
2
The same few people are mad,

The same few people are mad, because Augusta is attracting multiple developments. Where are the realistic numbers? I always have something to back up my comments, and you have an opinion.

http://appweb.augustaga.gov/planning_zoning/plazid_display.asp?zID=4270

Riverman..... Home2 Suites by Hilton, I-520 expansion, Medical Commons, Rockwood, Augusta Regional Industrial Park/General Perry Smith Pkwy, etc all under construction now. Your expectations of Augusta must be on the level of Seattle or Austin. How many cities with a metro under 600k have that much going on?

It's going to be funny when certain people hear the multiple upcoming announcements in the media this year... The current momentum of Augusta is too strong to deny. The 4th best city to live in, another major award for the Laney Walker Bethlehem project(National Planning Award, 6th best city for digital governments, etc.)

Gage Creed
19395
Points
Gage Creed 01/21/13 - 09:13 pm
0
0
countyman....your link is

countyman....your link is from October of 2011....and this is January of 2013. Has the construction began? I see you didn't address the biofuels plant and the 200 employees you told me they WILL hire.

Google the best 10 cities to live....for the one you crow about there are 10 other lists that do not include Augusta.

Typical...all fluff and no substance...

rdb613@gmail.com
34
Points
rdb613@gmail.com 01/23/13 - 10:19 am
0
1
Port Royal

Please bring back retail stores and restaurants to bring business back downtown. This property is for everyone to share. It is a crying shame to see such a fine attraction fall to pieces. It started out so well with the stores and restaurants. My family was down there almost weekend enjoying the river walk. I still go there frequently but am disappointed to see the lack of maintenance and vandalism. There is no civic pride in Richmond County. There is still no program coordinator with experience bringing events to Augusta. Someone should take lessons from Savannah. There are always activities on River Street and Market Square. We can't even keep the rest rooms open on River walk which makes it hard to enjoy what we do have. We need an on-going farmers market and arts & crafts exhibits coordinated with local musicians on the river walk to keep it thriving. Quit building convention centers and parking lots. The commissioners have been watching too many movies - the "if you build it they will come" doesn't work in Augusta. We have divided leadership and will never get better until they are on the same page. Way to let the Green Jackets move to North Augusta!

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