Bottleworks District honored for ‘Outstanding Restoration’

Indiana Landmarks, impressed with the revitalization of the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant into what is now known as the Bottleworks District, has given the complex project its prestigious Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration for 2023.

The historic Coca-Cola plant, used for many years by Indianapolis Public Schools, is the centerpiece of the $300 million, 12-acre culinary, arts, and entertainment hub which includes new construction with phases yet to be completed.

Jim and Lee Yuncker opened Indianapolis’s Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in 1931 on a site where they had been bottling ginger ale and other soft drinks since the early 1900s. When the Yunckers began bottling Coca-Cola, they hired the notable Indianapolis architectural firm Rubush & Hunter to design their new plant. The result was an Art Deco showpiece, with a gleaming white terra cotta façade, bronze storefronts, terrazzo flooring, colorful tile walls, and the brand’s ionic script logo in gold-leaf lettering.

Additions in the 1940s and ’50s further expanded the production facility before bottling operations moved out in the ’60s. Indianapolis Public Schools bought the property in 1968 and used it as a support building for buses and storage. In 2016, Hendricks Commercial Properties’ proposal to redevelop the site as a multi-use complex won approval by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

“Everyone working on it had a sense of pride in what they were doing and understood these buildings’ importance to the community,” said Gavin Thomas, Hendricks’ vice president of development. “We were very much interested in doing the right thing and setting the bar high, which was a big driver of the results.”

Despite opening during a pandemic, the Bottleworks Hotel and district has thrived, attracting visitors from around the world. Development continues on the remainder of the site, with plans for additional parking, retail, offices and housing that will reconnect the site to the surrounding vibrant historic neighborhoods.

“Hendricks’ adaptation of the former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant is a transformative project that exemplifies superior preservation practice and economic revitalization,” said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks.

In turning the former industrial building into a 139-room boutique hotel, project architect Ratio took pains to respect the building’s historic character. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, and National Park Service reviewed and approved plans for the project, which used federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Shiel Sexton and Hagerman served as contractors for the development.

“It was about really trying to understand the building and working with it instead of against it,” says David Kroll, a Ratio principal and director of preservation.

The lavishly tiled hotel lobby was originally the filler room, designed to provide public views of the automatic bottle-filling machines. As part of rehabilitation, workers removed concrete blocks from the street-facing windows and replicated the original bronze storefront. A local ceramicist restored the original bold-colored tiling.

Historic architectural plans and photos provided references for historic details. Today, historic photos line the hotel hallways alongside modern images, including portraits of workers who were part of the building’s restoration.

To allow for more guest rooms, the team created a third-floor addition and removed part of the roof, resulting in an open-air courtyard ringed by rooms on the second and third floors.

Each year, Indiana Landmarks awards the Cook Cup to the property owner who follows the highest standards of restoration in transforming a significant historic building, with positive impact on the neighborhood or community. Indiana Landmarks created the Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration in 2007, when the inaugural prize went to the award’s namesake family in honor of its transformation of the West Baden and French Lick Springs hotels in southern Indiana. The Cook family is nationally recognized for their many restorations of significant landmarks throughout Indiana.