Allen Lew: A Life Well Lived

Allen Y. Lew, the D.C. city administrator, meets with other city officials in his office in 2011. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Remembering Allen Lew

Allen Lew stands at the forefront of innovative leadership that has prepared the District of Columbia for a new season of growth, influence and stardom on the national and international stage.  For over 20 years, he demonstrated an on-time, on-budget and no excuses performance over a range of municipal and public-private initiatives that impacted every aspect of life in the Nation’s Capital and the National Capitol Region.

Often brought into failing, ineffective or static situations, he changed the atmosphere, created a new work environment and culture and prioritized everyone’s focus on what was best for the whole and the body politic.

On June 23, 2020, Allen Y. Lew succumbed to complications associated with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. This website serves to memorialize Allen Lew, and to remember and reflect on his contributions to the District of Columbia

Allen Lew's Life Story

Allen Yee Lew was born on September 11th, 1950, in New York City. His father, Fong Young Lew, was born in Guangzhou, China, and his mother was Helen (Yee) Lew, who was Chinese-American. During his upbringing, his mother and father owned a family-operated dry-cleaning business. After growing up in Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens, he graduated form Brooklyn Technical High School and went on to receive his bachelors of science degree in architecture from the City College of New York, where he developed his passion for development and construction. He went on to receive a master's degree in architecture and urban design from Columbia University, and in 1979, he married Suling Goon. In addition to his wife, Allen Lew is survived by his son, Garrett Lew, his sister, Helen Chin, and his grandson.

Allen Lew's Remarkable Career

Allen’s time in the District of Columbia can truly be described as transformative. Often brought into failing, ineffective or static situations, he changed the atmosphere, created a new work environment and culture and prioritized everyone’s focus on what was best for the whole and the body politic. Allen had a reputation of being an eccentric, innovative builder and problem solver; he made things happen, he strengthened the unseen fabric that holds neighborhoods together, and he instilled pride and a sense of awe in the District’s public buildings and facilities. He is quoted describing himself as someone who has "a constructive level of impatience about getting things done," and this is truly reflected by his impressive career, overseeing and delivering on massive public works in Washington D.C. and New York. Allen Lew served on the following boards: DC Water and Sewer Authority, Chairman; Power Line Under-Grounding Task Force, Co-Chairman; Prevention of Flooding Task Force, Co-Chairman; Metropolitan Council of Governments, Vice President; Washington Convention Center Authority, Director; DC Sports & Entertainment Commission, Director; Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority, Co-Chairman; DC  Streetcar  Task  Force, Chairman; Inter Agency Council on Homelessness, Chairman.

To read more about Allen Lew's career, click on a range of years from the menu below to see details about his work during that time.
1983 to 1988
1988 to 1990
1992 to 1994
1996 to 2004
2004 to 2007
2007 to 2010
2011 to 2015
2016 to 2019
2017 to 2019
2019 to 2020

Senior Vice Chancellor, Facilities, Planning, and Construction Management of the City University of New York ( 2019 to 2020 )

As the Senior Vice Chancellor of CUNY, Allen was responsible for all facilities development, planning and construction for a portfolio of nearly 300 owned and leased buildings and for executing a $3 billion capital construction program which served as a major regional economic engine, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new construction, facilities renovation and critical maintenance projects that support the University’s mission.

President, Washington Architectural Foundation
(2017 to 2019)

From 2017 to 2019, Allen served as the president of the Washington Architectural Foundation, an organization dedicated to working to improve access to the benefits and opportunities of design through in- and out-of-school educational programs, scholarships, and design services for community non-profits, and design competitions.

Principal, Lew Consulting (2016 to 2019)

Allen started his consulting firm, Lew Consulting, where he led a team engaged to conduct human capital and organizational restructuring for the District agency responsible for all building permitting, inspection and enforcement issues and oversight of licensing for corporations, businesses and professionals. His firm engaged with architecture, engineering, program management, development and consulting firms related to a variety of transformative long-range projects, including hotel developments, major transportation infrastructure projects, significant corporate expansions, sports facility development, hospital construction and affordable housing initiatives.

City Administrator, Government of the District of Columbia (2011 to 2015)

As the City Administrator, Allen was responsible for government operations for the District of Columbia, consisting of a $10 billion annual operating budget and $7 billion capital program, 30,000 employee work-force, and thousands of contractors, consultants and vendors. He directly oversaw the agencies responsible for labor and collective bargaining, environment, public works, transportation, contracts and procurement, human resources, technology, facilities management, capital construction, and economic development. He interfaced with a variety of stakeholders, including the DC Council, business community, trade groups, labor unions, community groups, advisory neighborhood commissions, metropolitan regional governments, federal government agencies, regulatory agencies, and Wall Street rating agencies.

Executive Director, Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (2007 to 2010)

In his time at the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, Allen administered a $3.5 billion school construction program, eradicated a five-year backlog of over 30,000 work orders and 5,000 code violations, reformed the procurement process, streamlined the payment process, elevated workforce culture, and improved repair and maintenance operations. He promoted excellence in urban academic architecture with school facilities winning awards for design innovation, construction quality and environmental sustainability and all school buildings achieving LEED certification.

Chief Executive Officer, D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (2004 to 2007)

As the C.E.O of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, Allen oversaw the planning, design and construction of the new $650 million Washington Nationals Ballpark, which was built in 22 ½ months while staying within legislative budget limits.  The  new  major  league  baseball  stadium  was  built  with  a  project  labor  agreement, achieved 52% CBE participation and was the first LEED certified stadium in the United States. Additionally, he oversaw the expedited three-month design and rehabilitation of the historic RFK Memorial Stadium for Major League Baseball use while maintaining use for DC United soccer.

Managing Director, Acting Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Washington Convention Center Authority (1996 to 2004)

At the start of his career in D.C, Allen oversaw the planning, design and construction of the $850 million Walter E. Washington Convention Center. He completed the new convention center on-time and on-budget while achieving 46% CBE participation and implementing innovative labor practices and job training programs. He coordinated the public approval process, including federal and District design and construction oversight commission hearings, and reformed the corporate culture and renegotiated all primary building operations contracts (including maintenance, housekeeping, food service, and security).

Vice President of Capital Programs, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (1992 to 1994)

As the Vice President of Capital Programs at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Allen Lew managed the design and construction of a $3.2 billion capital program covering twelve medical center campuses. He played a pivotal role in the reform, maintenance and repair strategies that affected hospital certification programs throughout the city.

Vice President, Rose Associates, Inc. (1988 to 1990)

During his time as the Vice President of Rose Associate, Allen Lew managed large-scale mixed use real estate development projects in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan regions. In this role, he interfaced with government agencies, corporate tenants, financial institutions, law firms, architects, engineers and construction managers.

New York Convention Center Operating Corporation

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (1983 to 1986)

Acting President and Chief Executive Officer
(1986 to 1988)

Allen Lew served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation where he oversaw building operations, sales, marketing, corporate sponsorships, inter-governmental affairs, public affairs, labor relations, legal affairs, human resources and affirmative action. He also served as Acting President & Chief Executive Officer of the New York Convention Center Development Corporation, where he oversaw design, construction and financing of the $500 million facility.

Allen Lew's Legacy

Allen Lew's Projects

Allen Lew was known by those he worked with as someone who gets things done, on time and under budget. Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington D.C. described him as a "visionary and a doer", and the City University of New York's chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez stated that "Allen built a reputation as a hard-driving executive who prized speed and efficiency and mastered the art of cutting through bureaucracy." The section below lists Allen's notable projects, in no particular order.

To read more about the specifics of Allen Lew's project, click on the image of the project from the section below.
Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Allen Lew began his career in D.C. as the managing director of the Washington Convention Center Authority, where he managed the planning and construction of the award-winning 2.3-million square foot, $850 million convention center located at the center of the city in Mount Vernon Square. It was completed in 2003.

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Renovation of D.C. Public Schools

Allen was recruited by Mayor Adrian Fenty to become Executive Director of the district of Columbia Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, where he oversaw some $3.5 billion of construction, renovation and stabilization work on DCPS school buildings and facilities. Many of those school projects have been hailed as examples of urban academic architecture and garnered awards for design innovation, construction excellence and environmental sustainability.

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Washington Nationals Ball Park

Allen was charged with the planning, site selection, development, and construction of the new Washington Nationals Ballpark, the new permanent home for the team. Allen was able to deliver the $650 million fan favorite stadium in only two years, opening doors to the public on March 30th, 2008.

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Renovation of R.F.K Stadium

While serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, Allen Lew was responsible for the renovation of the historic Robert F. Kennedy memorial stadium. The stadium was finished and ready for fans just in time for the Washington Nationals' inaugural season in 2005.

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Audi Field

Under mayor Vincent Gray, Allen played a pivotal role in the construction and planning of the Audi Field. The Audi Field seats 20,000 and is home to the Major League Soccer Team, D.C. United and is also used by the Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League. The Audi Field was completed and opened to the public in July 2018.

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City Administrator: D.C Public Facilities

Allen's less visible work during his time as the D.C. City Administrator  was critical to an efficiently managed city. His work involved flood control, the beginnings of a new streetcar system and an undertaking to lower electric power lines underground to improve power reliability particularly during periods of heavy rain and high winds and heavy snow storms. He managed the almost $10 billion a year DC Government operations and over $7 billion of capital initiatives.

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Allen Lew Tributes
No Voice Recordings Yet Be The First !

Allen will always hold a special place in my heart. His standards were high. And I am better for having known him. May Allen Lew 'Rest in Peace'. You will always be remembered and appreciated!

Pamela Murray Johnson

Sending continued prayers and hugs to Allen's family. Allen was a great leader, a great individual and a true role model on what dedication, assertiveness, commitment, passion, good customer service, and TEAMWORK should look like in the workplace. It was a pleasure and a privilege to serve the citizens of the District of Columbia under his leadership.

Tanya Hatchel-Thomas

It was with great sadness when I found out about the passing of Allen. He was one of the best people I have supported. I loved working with Allen in the Development office and watching him lead the amazing development of the new convention center. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and all that had the opportunity to know him.

Gwendolyn P. (Blake) Steele

Allen, "the Quiet Giant". Always willing to do whatever was necessary to get the job done, whatever the task. I could always inquire about any issues with Allen, who was such a humble individual. You always knew that Allen was tasked with any projects or issues, that it was good as done. We all miss you Allen.

Mr. Paul B. Thorpe

Allen Lew helped to enrich so many lives directly and indirectly through the built environment, mentoring many, along with helping to grow businesses through his vast portfolio of public sector projects. Allen's legacy is so evident in the District's landscape and honored to have worked under his leadership, learned much from him, and eternally grateful.

Willard Mangrum

Allen Lew was the most interesting client, mentor, and friend that I have had yet in my professional career. As a client, Allen was oftentimes very demanding, but he was also supportive, and knew how and when to keep things light. You just never knew what version of Allen you’d get on any given day. As a mentor, I learned a lot from Allen, ... click here to continue

Bill Mykins

“Remembering Allen Lew'' as former chair of the Washington Convention Center Authority Advisory Committee, it is my pleasure to say that the members of our Advisory Committee were afforded the opportunity to work closely with Allen from 1996 through 2004 which represents the timeframe for the many phases of development of our new convention center.  ... click here to continue

Carmencita. R. Kinsey

On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, we lost a very special friend---Allen Lew! After Allen had completed his duties as the City Administrator of DC and he had completed overseeing all of the construction of the Washington Convention Center, Nationals Stadium, renovations of RFK Stadium and modernization of 30 DC Public Schools, Allen, Linda Lee ... click here to continue

Carmen Kinsey

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