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:
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.
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.