WASHINGTON — Like many Washingtonians, Max Brown came to Washington, D.C., to try and make a difference. In his two-plus decades since arriving to the nation’s capital, he has found himself involved with some of the city’s heaviest hitters.
Before becoming Chairman of EventsDC, Brown worked in the Clinton administration for the late Senator John Glenn (D-OH) and later for Mayor Tony Williams, among others. In that time, he has watched the city evolve from a government town laden with crime and drugs into one of the country’s top destination locations. Once known as the “murder capital” of the country, Brown was present as D.C. transformed from a place of desolation into the city of flourishing neighborhoods and businesses is it today.
As the Chairman of EventsDC, Brown is one of the leading players in continuing to make the city more than just a town where politicians hang their hats.
“It used to be sort of a quiet, small-ish feeling town,” Brown said of our nation’s capital in an interview with Rare at his office. “But it’s been transformed from just a government town to a city like you would see anywhere else in the states, in terms of neighborhoods. So Washington is not a federal town anymore. It’s not just government.”
According to Brown, EventsDC began as an entity to attract events to the city that would be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and several other venues — the vision for the group is to do much more for the city, and he’s putting that vision into motion.
“One of the primary goals besides putting on these events is to generate the tax revenue for the city,” he said. “So when people come here for conventions, they stay in hotels, which generates hotel tax, which generates economic development for the city. All that money that’s generated gets put back into the city for police cars, education, infrastructure, healthcare. So we’re really a driver for the economic development of the city.”
But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to hosting events, EventsDC is also launching several programs and initiatives to better Washington’s neighborhoods and those who live in them. One of the biggest transformations to come is the upcoming Apple development at the historic Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square.
“We signed a letter of intent with Apple to open one of their global flagship stores across the street at the Carnegie Library, and for them it’s a different concept. It’s not just a store, it’s a community gathering place,” Brown said. “We’re also building an arena in Ward 8 for the Washington Mystics to play in and for the Washington Wizards’ training facility. This is a $65 million arena in a really underserved area of the city, which is going to create jobs and economic development that will drive further amenities for people in the community, like restaurants and places to shop.”
They also have a plan to revitalize the RFK Stadium-Armory Campus where the RFK Stadium is, home to the D.C. United soccer team. The team is getting a new stadium elsewhere, and EventsDC has been tasked with finding a new use for the existing stadium and campus.
“We are looking at what we can do with this 190 acre campus in the middle of the city,” Brown explained. “So we rolled out about five short-term ideas. One is community soccer fields, because there aren’t really many good fields in the city for kids and for adults. The second is a big food hall, a 65 thousand square feet market hall with prepared foods and fresh fruits and vegetables, which people really have a hard time buying in that part of the city.”
They also have plans to add three new pedestrian bridges crossing the Anacostia River in effort to better connect east and west D.C., as well as a sports and entertainment complex for residents and visitors to use, which will include a zip-lining course, space to play paintball, a basketball court and turf fields other amenities for the city.
Whether or not the Trump White House will throw a wrench in these plans remains to be seen. With the increased amount of federal oversight Washington, D.C., receives in comparison to other cities throughout the country, it’s possible that EventsDC could be inhibited in accomplishing their goals. Brown, however, is optimistic that they’ll be able to establish a firm working relationship with the new administration.
“We partner with the federal government all the time, irrespective of who the president is, because it’s really the federal agencies that we interact with,” he said. “So, we expect that relationship to remain strong, and we’re hopeful that the new administration will understand some of our challenges as a city with federal oversight, unlike Topeka or Miami.”
Brown has witnessed the revival of a city that used to be riddled with crime, poverty, drugs and riots, one that many believed was a place where government employees worked but did not live. He’s watched as D.C.’s crumbling industries were reborn during the 1990s, ultimately booming in the early 2000s when the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and its private sector contractors brought a variety of jobs to the area.
The capital is now full of diverse neighborhoods and people — both government and non-government workers alike — who live and work within the city limits. Likewise, EventsDC has evolved from being solely events-oriented to really working toward community development and improvement. Under Brown, the growth of both the organization and the city looks promising.