Owner of former Fort Discovery site has space to fill

Fort Discover stripped to bare floors, columns

 

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.

Last Fort Discovery exhibit torn down for scrap metal
Vacant Fort Discovery site sold to California investor
Helicopter moved from old Fort Discovery site
Fort Discovery's 'Huey' chopper moving to hospital
Fort Discovery drawing interest
Fort Discovery says farewell
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

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