Vacant Fort Discovery site sold to California investor

The expansive riverfront home of the defunct Fort Discovery museum has a new name – and a new owner.

After being on the market more than a year, the 120,000-square-foot property at 1 Seventh St. was purchased for $2.1 million by California businessman Moshe Silagi, said Rob Dennis, the chief executive officer of the National Science Center, which closed the educational attraction in 2010 after the organization announced plans to move to Washington, D.C.

Silagi is president of Silagi Development & Management, a 25-year-old firm based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., which has holdings in more than 20 states, according to the company Web site.

The Augusta property was titled under a newly created, for-profit corporation called Discovery Plaza LLC, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

Although no specific use has been identified, the riverfront property will most likely evolve into office space, said Dennis Trotter, the vice president of Meybohm Commercial Properties, who handled the sale.

“We’re in active discussions with potential tenants right now,” Trotter said. “We don’t think it will be retail, but it is more likely to be office or institutionally oriented space.”

Silagi, whose portfolio includes malls, golf resorts and residential sites, already owns real estate in Augusta, including the former Waccamaw building off Wylds Road. That site is now occupied by Virginia College and Teleperformance USA.

“He took a seriously under-performing piece of real estate, made an investment in improving it, and now has a place with a thousand people coming in and out of it every day,” Trotter said. “That shows the potential for the downtown property. A building that size in downtown Augusta could bring 400, even 500 people downtown in the way of employees.”

The former Fort Discovery site includes the third and fourth floors of the Port Royal building off Reynolds Street. The first two floors include city-owned parking facilities, with private condominiums on the upper floors.

The property includes a theater, restaurants and other amenities and was once listed for as much as $5 million.

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 plan to operate a museum.

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

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