Allen Lew, man behind some of D.C. largest projects, dies of coronavirus

Allen Y. Lew died of coronavirus less than a year after he moved to New York City to work for the City University of New York. Photo courtesy of City College of New York
Allen Y. Lew died of coronavirus less than a year after he moved to New York City to work for the City University of New York. Photo courtesy of City College of New York

June 23 (UPI) -- Allen Y. Lew, a former Washington, D.C., city administrator who built the capital's convention center and Nationals Park, died of COVID-19, his family said Tuesday. He was 69.

Lew died in New York City, where he'd worked since December as vice chancellor for facilities and planning for the City University of New York, his wife, Suling Lew, told The Washington Post.


Lew led the Sports and Entertainment Commission in Washington while Anthony Williams was mayor and oversaw the $3.5 billion overhaul of public school buildings and sports facilities under Mayor Adrian Fenty. He'd also served as city administrator.

District Mayor Muriel Bowser said Lew left behind a "remarkable legacy."

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"With Allen at the helm, our biggest challenges could be tackled by assembling a dedicated team, communicating a vision, and demonstrating a relentless commitment to seeing it through. His legacy will live on in the many public servants who still serve our city and who learned from Allen," she said.

"He taught us that in public service, you do not need to choose between quality and efficiency as embracing both yields excellence."


Lew's determination to get projects done at a break-neck pace often ruffled feathers at first but eventually earned fans, the Post reported. When Paul J. Cohn, a prominent D.C. restaurant owner and convention center board member, recommended Lew to head the sports authority, Councilman Jack Evans first questioned the idea.

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"Jack calls and asks, 'Who is this Allen Lew guy? He's stepping on all these toes,'" Cohn had told the Post. "I told Jack, 'You didn't tell me you wanted a politician. You told me you wanted someone to build a stadium.'"

According to his CCNY biography, he served as D.C.'s city administrator from 2011 to 2105, managing a budget of about $10 billion yearly with some $7 billion worth of capital programs and 30,000 employees.

He renovated Washington's public schools while serving as executive director of the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization from 2007 to 2010. The effort won awards in urban academic architecture and environmentally-friendly design.

A native of New York City, Lew earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from CCNY and his master's degree in architecture and urban design from Columbia University.

Notable deaths of 2020

Richard Thornburgh
Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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