Bottleworks: a Make-or-Break Ambition

Indy’s seen a lot of projects in the past decade. But I’m not sure if we have seen any publicly available property that reaches the potential scale of Bottleworks in the downtown area since possibly the opening of now-struggling Circle Center Mall. A major reason for this is the historic character of the property. Turning a fading-but-amazing Art Deco structure into retail, theater, residences, and offices, along with building brand new buildings and infrastructure. The location is prime: There haven’t been too many bad investments made along Massachusetts Avenue. But this is another scale entirely.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to tour this facility. After 18 years of living here and wondering about the interior, this building was on display for a tour put on by Indiana Landmarks. The main event is the public tasting room and executive lobby, shown below:

Image Credit: Kevin Kastner
Image Credit: Kevin Kastner
Image Credit: Kevin Kastner

Coca Cola had a huge operation here, and at one time it was the largest soda bottling plant in the country. It was designed by local architects and built by a firm that is still located across the street. And according to a guide, the demand for Coke in Indiana was a huge factor in this plant’s scale. Then the plant moved out, was bought by Tony Hulman (yes that Tony Hulman) and then was acquired by IPS in the 1960’s. They used it mostly for school bus storage, and they did minimal work on it. They kept the lights on, basically, for decades. Now, the facility is poised for rebirth.

Image Credit: Bottleworks

A project this large in scale depends on a lot of factors: How much more retail can downtown Indy absorb? What about the possible dreaded expansion of the north split, visible in the view shown above? Will it be so large that it might negatively impact other districts? Or will it languish in comparison of an older, funkier arts district such as Fountain Square? It’s hard to say for now. The bottom line at this point: most of the architecture will finally be brought back to life and restored, and a potentially sad fate for this gem has been forestalled.

Comments 6

  • This project will transform the Mass Avenue corridor. It will be so nice to have this vacant land developed into a nice urban project.

  • As the availability of more new housing becomes available, the population will similarly grow as it has in the past decade. As a result, there will be an increased demand for more “within walking (or biking) distance” attractions. Bottleworks will certainly provide those. It will be exciting to watch the transformation of that end of Mass Ave.

  • Thanks for devoting more attention to this, Kevin. Hope to see regular updates in the future.

    I think this could be transformative as well, but the balance is very difficult. Clearly we don’t want to pull too much energy and focus away from the heart of the Mile Square (though at the same time most people probably won’t care so much if businesses leave Circle Centre for this space).

    At the same time, if the residential/office density isn’t great enough (and I seriously don’t know if it is), the retail will seriously struggle. The fact that this is at the end of a corridor rather than the middle makes the need for high-intensity usage that much stronger.

    • Eric, there is strong development and good density just a couple of blocks east on 10th. It really isn’t the end of a corridor…it’s just connecting the Circle City Industrial redevelopment (and others around it) to the downtown core. Similarly, just across the interstate along the Monon (which ends into this development), there are large new apartment complexes and dense single-family redevelopment happening.

      • It has good for Indy density combined with the status of a destination that will have retailers flocking there. The real key is if the area can become well rounded enough to support neighborhood level retail when the luster wears off.

  • I’m worried about the negative impact doubling the width of the highway will have on this area in particular, as well as fountain square/ fletcher place

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