Discovery Channel hopes to make splash Store would feature waterfall at entrance as 'identity statement'; Retail


The Hard Rock Cafe has its neon guitar.

Planet Hollywood has its palm trees and zebra-striped awnings.

ESPN Zone will soon have a giant "sports kebab" -- a collection of sports balls on a skewer.

So how can a new retailer make a splash in the Inner Harbor?

Representatives of the Discovery Channel showed one approach yesterday when they asked Baltimore's Architectural Review Board for permission to create a waterfall outside the store they plan to open at Harborplace.

"We're looking at something very sculptural, very architectural, that begins to play up the significance of the harbor," said designer Steven McGowan of FRCH Design in Cincinnati.

"There's nothing fake here. Nothing faux. It's real water."

The waterfall would be a "major identity statement" for Discovery Channel at Harborplace, explained Gregory Moyer, president and chief editorial and creative officer for Discovery Communications Inc., which will operate the store.

"We look at this as a unique architectural opportunity, and we've designed it for Baltimore specifically," Moyer said.

The Architectural Review Board approved the design for Harborplace with few comments.

The waterfall would be created by running water down a 5-foot-wide, 16-foot-high stone pylon that will be erected outside the entrance to the Discovery Channel store at the north end of Harborplace's Light Street pavilion.

The water would be collected in a shallow pool at the foot of the pylon and recirculated back to the top, where it would splash down again. The pylon would double as a post that helps hold up a marquee-like sign designating the store's main entrance.

Discovery Communications, a $1 billion Bethesda media company that produces cable television's Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Animal Planet, bought the 124 Nature Company stores in 1996. It is extending its Discovery brand by converting those outlets to Discovery Channel stores, featuring a broader array of goods, including scientific instruments, home-decorative items "with a cultural pedigree," books, videos and "tools for exploration," many of which involve Discovery's cable programming.

"We want people to stop watching TV and go out and be real explorers," Moyer said. "It's pushing people beyond their comfort zones."

Discovery is owned by Cox Communications, Advance/Newhouse Communications, Tele-Communication Inc.'s Liberty Media Corp. and John S. Hendricks, the company's founder, chairman and chief executive.

The company's 30,000-square-foot store at the MCI Center in Washington is its flagship. But the 7,000-square-foot Baltimore store will be the second largest in the chain and is conceived as a "mini-flagship," with many of the same features as the Washington store, Moyer said.

The Harborplace store's exterior may also feature a window display about Baltimore's history as a seaport and etched glass panels that convey information about weather and navigation, the designers said.

Discovery plans to operate its Light Street store as The Nature Company through the summer tourist season. It will close the store for renovations in the fall and reopen next spring.

Moyer declined to say how much the fountain or the store would cost, but he said the waterfall is intended only for the Harborplace location as a "gesture" to the city and its maritime heritage.

"We're trying to raise the bar here and show we're not just moving boxes off shelves," he said. "We want to celebrate the harbor."

Pub Date: 6/05/98

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