The Man Behind Bottleworks

Isaac Bamgbose, a twentysomething real-estate developer, is the straw that stirs the drink at the old Coke plant.
“I’m very bullish on Indianapolis,” Isaac Bamgbose says excitedly when talking about developing the historic Coca-Cola bottling plant on the northeast end of Mass Ave. It’s not just youthful enthusiasm (Bamgbose is all of 26)—a rare 1930s Art Deco building on an even rarer 12 acres of urban property presents an exciting real-estate opportunity. “In its heyday, the plant was pumping out 2 million bottles of Coca-Cola a week,” he says. “It was a huge economic driver for the city. We have to do something worthy of that history.”

Bamgbose, vice presidentof asset management for Hendricks Commercial Properties, is overseeing the transformation of the property and plant into Bottleworks, which recalls Union Station’s makeover of a grand landmark into a public playground with architectural splendor. He envisions a choose-your-own-adventure entertainment space with traffic-drivers like restaurants, a boutique hotel, retail stores, an independent movie theater, and a food hall. “I want a place where you can have lunch made by a chef using goods found in onsite markets, while an artist is silk-screening a T-shirt you helped design,” he says. “It’s all about creating an entire day’s experience.” Bamgbose, who worked on a handful of Hendricks projects along Mass Ave and the recently expanded Ironworks complex near Keystone at the Crossing, thinks Bottleworks can become a destination akin to Chelsea Market in New York or Seattle’s Pike Place Market. “Look at Milwaukee, a city considerably smaller than Indianapolis,” he says. “Their Public Market attracts a million people a year. Why can’t we be that for a city attracting more than 27 million people a year in conventions alone?”

Bottleworks recalls Union Station’s makeover of a landmark into a public playground with archi-tectural splendor.

At Bottleworks, his experience and data-driven knowledge will converge into a seven-year, multi-phase, $260 million development that will preserve the buildings’ architectural charms. Built during the Great Depression, the plant was lavish for any factory, but particularly one of that meager era. Bronze, marble, and gold details reflect the original owner’s faith that Coke would make him a fortune.

The public could get its first look at the new Bottleworks in the summer of 2019, when the food hall and hotel are (for now) scheduled to open. In the meantime, Indiana Landmarks will lead one more “before” tour, following up on last summer’s sold-out event that attracted 700 people. It’s February 17, and reservations can be made on starting this month. Once you see the stunning features up close, you’ll hope Bamgbose takes to heart Coke’s 1948 tagline: “You can’t beat the real thing.”