The former Fort Discovery space could soon be filled, bringing the potential of hundreds of new jobs to downtown Augusta.
Property owner and developer Moshe Silagi confirmed that there is an office-use tenant interested in the 120,000-square-foot spot at the intersection of Reynolds and Seventh streets, which could create at least 400 jobs.
“If it materializes, it will happen fast and it will be very promising,” Silagi said. “Every downtown would like to have this type of an action taking place.”
Silagi, who was in town last week to meet with those involved in the property, said he was unable to provide the name of the potential tenant because “there are too many parties involved.”
After the Augusta Downtown Development Authority regular meeting Thursday morning, board members held an hour-long closed session and cited recent real estate developments as the reason. Those in attendance, including Augusta Regional Collaboration Project Director Matt Kwatinetz, declined to comment afterward.
Augusta broker Dennis Trotter, who represents Silagi, said finding a new tenant to fill the former museum now vacant for almost three years is in the “courting” phase.
“We’re courting a tenant right now is about all I can say,” said Trotter, a partner in the Jordan Trotter commercial real estate firm. “It’s not a done deal and far from a done deal, but we do have some significant interest in the building.”
In January 2012, Silagi purchased the two-story space within the Port Royal building for about $2 million.
The old National Science Center attraction closed in 2010 after 13 years operation. The site has been stripped to bare concrete floors and columns to make way for its next tenant.
The Port Royal property includes city-owned parking facilities and private condominium on the upper floor. The building, once listed for as much as $5 million, also has space for a theater, restaurants and other amenities.
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