Fort Discovery for sale

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Fort Discovery is closing, but when is unknown.

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A large crowd gathered on the Riverwalk for Fort Discovery's opening ceremonies, which were held April 26, 1997.  File/Staff
File/Staff
A large crowd gathered on the Riverwalk for Fort Discovery's opening ceremonies, which were held April 26, 1997.

The two-story, 128,000-square-foot space on Riverwalk Augusta has been listed with Meybohm Realtors, said Rob Dennis, the president and CEO of the National Science Center Inc., the public-private partnership between the nonprofit and the Army that operates Fort Discovery and is housed there. Mr. Dennis said there is no deadline for the sale and the fate of the exhibits has not yet been determined.

Repeated efforts to reach Meybohm to confirm the listing Friday were unsuccessful.

The driving force behind selling the space and closing the museum is the organization's mission to provide educational outreach nationally in science, technology, engineering and math, Mr. Dennis said.

"This was a proactive decision for the board," he said.

"We could have kept doing business as usual, but if we did that, we certainly wouldn't have been successful in our mission and we would've risked the entire enterprise and partnership by doing it."

Until the space is sold, the science center will continue to operate on its three-day schedule of Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays -- a change that was announced as part of the National Science Center's restructuring plan in August.

"The National Science Center partnership doesn't want to be deterred from meeting this national mission. That is the focus right now," he said. "And while ... we've had a good run with Fort Discovery, it's been a challenging run with Fort Discovery; 128,000 square feet is an awful big house to keep up. "

When Fort Discovery closes, it will be missed, said Margaret Woodard, the executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. "When people come downtown to Fort Discovery, they also spend money in the restaurants and businesses, so it would be a significant loss for downtown," she said.

It will also be a loss of a family-friendly attraction, said Barry White, the president and CEO of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We've been very fortunate to have Fort Discovery in Augusta. It's going to be missed," he said. "It's certainly going to be a loss to our collection of attractions that are of interest to visitors."

Though Augusta is losing the museum, it will hold on to the National Science Center.

Once Fort Discovery's space is sold, the partnership headquarters will move to its 88-acre property adjacent to Fort Gordon and occupy the building it has there.

"Our headquarters are here in Augusta, Ga., and we want to keep them here," Mr. Dennis said.

With the impending closing of Fort Discovery, the partnership has begun to focus on its outreach programs, including the mobile discovery centers and the Fast Track Science, Discovery Academy and Junior ROTC programs.

"We are going to be more effective and more efficient at delivering the products and services to the students and teachers of Augusta, of the CSRA, in the state of Georgia and nationally," Mr. Dennis said.

The National Science Center hopes that the community will continue to support its efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and math, he said.

"No one at the board, or on the Army side of the partnership for that matter, looks forward to closing this building or selling this building, but we are excited about being successful at the mission," he said. "We're excited about long-term viability. That's what all of this is grounded in for the National Science Center."

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

EVENT TO REMAIN

The Best of Augusta Bash still will be held Thursday at Fort Discovery.

Proceeds from the event benefit the science center, which will continue to operate at the Riverwalk site until it is sold.

FORT DISCOVERY HISTORY

1991: Port Royal, an 18-story luxury condominium complex that includes an indoor mall and 27 high-end stores, opens.

1994: Last store at Shoppes of Port Royal closes.

1994: Port Royal is purchased by two investment companies for $5.2 million, a fraction of the nearly $40 million cost of the project originally.

SEPTEMBER 1995: William S. Morris III, chairman of Morris Communications Corp., donates the former mall space to the National Science Center.

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

APRIL 1997: Fort Discovery, a partnership between the Army and National Science Center, opens with interactive science and technology displays.

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

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

-- Erin Zureick, staff writer

Comments (15) Add comment
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Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 10/03/09 - 03:47 am
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WOW! First the Golf and

WOW! First the Golf and Gardens and now this! Boy, this is what I call 'progress'! Let's build the TEE because tourism is REALLY big in downtown Augusta huh? I bet if you ask Maggie Woodard over at the DDA she will call this a 'positive' thing somehow! Now the TEE supporters will tell us that we 'MUST have TEE or downtown will suffer!' Gotta love a place that gets two million in public funds and cannot maintain a project.

jebko
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jebko 10/03/09 - 04:53 am
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A nice place for a "Ripley's

A nice place for a "Ripley's Believe It or Not";

Opinionated one1
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Opinionated one1 10/03/09 - 05:00 am
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Augusta prospers and grows

Augusta prospers and grows "Believe It Or Not"

xanadu
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xanadu 10/03/09 - 06:29 am
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poor ole augusta. things are

poor ole augusta. things are so bad there, they don't even qualify as part of the nation anymore, apparently. they'd better get their act together, or maybe they'll find the golf people will take the masters away from them, too, then what will be left to draw tourists here for one week a year? the lovely shopping strip malls? a tour of columbia county's so-called 'progress'? a walk down the five-hundred yards or so of riverwalk, complete with abandoned businesses? good thing the church is still standing down there; they can always look at the stained glass windows and study the old tombstones,

The Godfather
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The Godfather 10/03/09 - 07:26 am
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Those boys from France

Those boys from France spent$40 mil buildin' it. Billy bought it for $5 mil--now we want to spent 80 mil (down the drain) Do you want your money spent that way? Just in case you haven't heard Hyatt hotel is going to spend 25 million on a hotel and have an impact of 240 million to our economy.Tee =Port royal

andywarhol
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andywarhol 10/03/09 - 07:49 am
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I thought the Hyatt backed

I thought the Hyatt backed out of the deal?

my.voice
4731
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my.voice 10/03/09 - 08:38 am
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The problem with the museum

The problem with the museum is they let it get stale. Very poor marketing on their part, not to mention a bad, very bad location. We cant have Arena Football, Hockey, or this.......small town thinking in Georgia's second largest metro area. So sad.

bettyboop
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bettyboop 10/03/09 - 08:43 am
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Is that glee I read in your

Is that glee I read in your post brad?...you still sound bitter to me...just saying

imdstuf
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imdstuf 10/03/09 - 09:31 am
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Lets put a small mall

Lets put a small mall there...oh..wait haha

Riverman1
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Riverman1 10/03/09 - 10:18 am
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Let's look on the bright

Let's look on the bright side. The French company spent the money to build it and it's there. Somebody will buy it and come up with something. It's not going anywhere.

Brad Owens
4290
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Brad Owens 10/03/09 - 10:47 am
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perusing, bitter? Nope.

perusing, bitter? Nope. Sarcastic? Yep. I love to see wastes of my tax dollars go under.

disssman
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disssman 10/03/09 - 11:13 am
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Riverman. The the old

Riverman. The the old Regency Mall isn't going anywhere either. On the bright side they can rent it out during Masters for ???? Oh I forgot that facility dosen't have any parking. Well so much for a TEE center replacement because its on the wrong end of Reynolds. Did it ever dawn on anyone that the traffic jams caused by school buses would one day come to this? Folks there is just no secure public parking downtown. And really no cost effective place for expansion. Last summer I took friends to visit the museum and we had to drive to find a place to get a bite to eat. Thats right, there wasn't a place close enough or decent enough to even get a cold drink for the family. And of course driving to another location downtown and looking for secure parking wasn't an option so we went to Washington road.

jack
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jack 10/03/09 - 12:02 pm
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About time this anchor was

About time this anchor was removed from the Army's neck and the federal employees who have been "working" there, skating ever since FD opened, and given real Army jobs.

disssman
6
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disssman 10/03/09 - 08:31 pm
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Jack apparently you didn't

Jack apparently you didn't read the part that says they are moving to the site they own between gate 1 and 2. The real question iS,are we going to continue to support them with tax money gifts from the county comission as in the past?

DCMetro
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DCMetro 10/03/09 - 10:02 pm
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This is really sad news. I

This is really sad news. I volunteered at Fort Discovery not long after it opened and it was a fabulous facility. When we come back to Augusta, one of the highlights of the trip with the kids is to visit the museum. Where else in Augusta can kids be encouraged to touch and play in a museum, but also learn science/technology/math concepts at the same time whether they realize it or not, outside of school. Before Ft. Discovery, I remember spending summers at NSC at Ft. Gordon. It was tons of fun. Not sure if the camp still exists. Fort Discovery will be missed!

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