PLANT

Former Indianapolis Coca Cola plant is now an upscale hotel

A 'tasting room' with large glass windows showed off the bottling conveyor belt

December 21, 2020   by Amelia Pak-Harvey, The Associated Press, Indianapolis

Brothers Leo and James Yuckner did not envision a run-of-the-mill industrial office building when they built the Coca-Cola bottling plant along Massachusetts Avenue in the early 1900s. They hired a local architecture firm to adorn the factory in the art deco style that was popular at the time. A “tasting room” with large glass windows showed off the bottling conveyor belt for passersby.

Now, nearly one century later, the iconic bottling plant began its latest chapter on Tuesday as the Bottleworks Hotel. Geromino Hospitality Group, which captured historic elements of the building in a massive redevelopment, provided media tours Monday. The hotel right near the heart of downtown pays homage to its beginnings as a Coca-Cola bottling factory.

Guests will check in at the lobby standing on the original terrazzo tiling in the former tasting room. They will look out large glass windows _ the same ones that showcased the plant’s machinery. Guest room doors are a bright, Coca-Cola red. Exposed white brick walls remind visitors of the building’s past industrial life.

Historically preserved lobby

But success is no guarantee. It’s a tough time to open or even operate a hotel – occupancy rates for hotels in the metropolitan statistical area have dropped year-to-date by 23.7% as of October, according to monthly data from hospitality benchmarking company STR. Still, general manager Amy Isbell-Williams is banking on visitors even in the middle of a rough year.

“There’s a ton of staycation happening right now,” she said. “And those that are travelling right now are really looking for something experiential.”

If checking into the historically preserved lobby isn’t enough of an experience, perhaps climbing the winding staircase toward the back will suffice. Beginning in the 1930s, that’s where visitors checked in with the Yuckners’ secretary, standing under an ornate ceiling featuring decorative circles _ a nod to the effervescence of Coca-Cola. The hotel is just one amenity of the $300 million mixed-use Bottleworks District, which will feature a 38,000-square-foot food hall known as The Garage that opens Jan. 5.

The Coca-Cola Bottling Plant founded by the Yuncker family grew to become the largest bottling plant in the world with 260 employees producing over 2 million bottles of soda per week. Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman bought the Coca-Cola franchise in 1964, moving bottling operations to Speedway and using the building to store his vintage car collection. Indianapolis Public Schools bought the building four years later, using it as a central kitchen, bus service centre and woodworking studio. Hendricks Commercial Properties took ownership of the property to begin work on the Bottleworks District in 2017.

Rooms have given new life to former administrative offices

Hotel rooms range from $249 to $699 per night. The five most expensive so-called priestly suites feature a white tub sitting resting on a white marble floor, rooms that Isbell-Williams calls “diamonds in the rough.” Other rooms have given new life to former administrative offices, where the bed sits in the middle of the room facing the historically preserved windows.

Geromino Hospitality Group, which owns and operates the hotel and The Garage, tried to keep the building’s historic features whenever feasible. A local ceramic artist replaced over 200 tiles, replicating the originals – even those with fading coloring stained from smoking that was commonly allowed indoors at the time. Amid second-floor meeting rooms sits the mysterious “lab,” which once featured giant bins – presumably filled with some sort of formula, Isbell-Williams notes – and metal chutes where bottle caps were dropped down into the basement.

“We’re going to be using this space just kind of as a pre-function space,” she said. “Put your coffee stations out there when you’re having the events in the other meeting rooms – maybe a cocktail hour.”

The 139-room hotel only opened its second floor on Tuesday while third-floor rooms are still being finished. Hotel tenants include Sundry & Vice, a cocktail lounge from Cincinnati, and Blue Collar Coffee. The Bottleworks District will also feature Living Room Theaters, an eight-screen theatre showing local movies, and duckpin bowling alley Pins Mechanical – both set to open later this winter. The second phase of the district, which includes 60 apartment units, will open in 2022.

 

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