The Architect of Geist: Allen Rosenberg, Sr.
From his early days at the Indianapolis Water Company in the late 1960’s through today, Rosenberg has been the common thread of the Geist Reservoir community.
After graduating from Indiana University in 1960, he became a certified public accountant. Working for a large Indianapolis accounting firm, Rosenberg remembers his first client: a local drug and liquor wholesaler.
“I told them they would be out of business in two years,” Rosenberg said. “I was wrong; it took them three.”
Rosenberg was later hired as the understudy to a retiring Chief Financial Officer at the Indianapolis Water Company. It was here that he learned the ins and outs of the utility regulatory process, crafting the initial rolling stock option offering that opened the door to develop the land around Morse and Geist Reservoirs.
“I bet the farm to get as many shares of stock as I could. A lot of people didn’t think we could ever get sewers and the permits to build out here,” said Rosenberg. “We wound up with a public company (Shorewood Corporation) that was more in tune with risk and land development than the water company stock holders.”
Rosenberg’s reputation for shrewd business deals for the Indianapolis Water Company caught the attention of an east coast utility conglomerate. He was lured away to Philadelphia to be president over 67 different utility companies. Stan Hunt, a former Indianapolis Water Company line manager and Rosenberg’s best friend, stayed in Indianapolis to carry out the day-to-day land development activities of Shorewood.
In 1971, Shorewood began developing at Morse Reservoir in South Harbours while development of Geist was on hold. The Army Corps of Engineers wanted to raise the Geist dam by 29 feet to increase the water supply to Indianapolis. The plan would have absorbed 75% of Shorewood’s land and created a lake three times larger than the current reservoir. The proposal, dubbed Highland Lake, was shot down in 1978 by a group of Fall Creek residents led by Indiana Senator Birch Bayh. This cleared the way for Geist Reservoir land development.
“Morse was going great, but the key to getting Geist Reservoir developed was getting sewer service from Indianapolis,” Rosenberg recalls.
Later that year, four Cardinal Woods lots were sold, launching the 31-year development project known as Geist. Beamreach and Masthead development started on the south end of the reservoir in 1979 with 51 total lots sold. All told, Shorewood (now the Marina Limited Partnership) accounted for over 7,500 acres of development at both Morse and Geist Reservoirs.
“Once we got the pattern down, it was just a matter of carrying out the plan,” explained Rosenberg.
He shares the credit for his continued success with his long-time employees. Gene Heiwig (retired land development), Paul Deaton (Marina Dock Construction), Rob Bussell (lot sales), Kent Duckwall (Director of Marina Operations) and Amy Hunt (past Geist Clubhouse director) have all been with Rosenberg over 20 years. Rosenberg’s son, Allen Rosenberg Jr., is carrying on the business.
“He had to prove himself first on his own,” the senior Rosernberg said with a smile. “I’m a little biased, but he’s done a great job.”
Now living in the Marina Village behind Bella Vita Ristorante, Rosenberg still comes into his remote office every day, sitting just 100 yards from the main offices above the Marina Boat Sales showroom. His door is always open to customers and employees, a policy that has served him well over the years.
Rosenberg’s first love is sailing. He is down to a power boat in Florida which he frequents during the winter months as his warm climate retreat. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which has affected his ability to sail as he once did. However, that doesn’t stop him from enjoying the comforts and views from his floating home away from home.
By Rosenberg’s estimation, Geist Reservoir development will be complete in about 15 years. He’s hopeful that he will see the culmination of the plan that he and his late friend Stan Hunt conceived over 30 years ago. As the sun sets on his illustrious career, Rosenberg’s legacy as the visionary who saw the possibilities at Geist Reservoir will live on.
“I never imagined that this community would turn out like it did, but I’m sure glad it did.”