When most people see the original American Pharmacists Association building in Washington, DC, they just assume it is another government building. While it’s not that, it’s the National Mall’s only private site, which leaves the APhA with spectacular views of some of the city’s most famous landmarks.
“As you can imagine, being located directly on the National Mall, our views pretty much cover the expanse,” said Todd McDonald, CMP, APhA Director of Meeting Services and Special Events. “You can see everything from the Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. In Virginia, you can see the Pentagon, the Air Force Memorial, and pieces of Arlington National Cemetery.
The APhA office space comprises two buildings: the original Pope Building built in 1934 and a state-of-the-art headquarters completed in 2009. The original building was designed by John Russell Pope, who was also the architect behind the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art and the Jefferson Memorial. Because Pope’s style matches the rest of DC, most people don’t pay much attention to APhA’s building.
“When I do site visits to walk around in space, I often hear [clients viewing the space] say how many times they walked past the building without ever taking a second look,” McDonald said. “They just assume, being right on Constitution Avenue, that our building is just another federal building.”
Rental brings income and publicity
The organization began renting space in the buildings in 2010, a few months after construction of the new headquarters was completed. Rental space includes interior rooms within the buildings, as well as the most popular locations: an outdoor space on the sixth floor of the headquarters building known as the Potomac View Terrace and a two-level open-air terrace on the ground floor. floor outside the Pope building. .
McDonald’s says the rental space not only brings in unearned revenue, but also provides an opportunity for people to learn more about APhA.
“It’s a minor revenue stream compared to the association’s overall budget, but I think there’s also a public relations element built in,” McDonald said. “It allows non-members to enter the building and learn more about the association, its history and its mission.”
And because most people assume it’s a government building, they’re curious to know more, and the staff are always willing to share.
To avoid conflicting with the activities of the association, the APhA had to set certain parameters. “We have to weigh the number of events and the specifics of each event with the impact on normal business operations,” McDonald said. “To this end, we mainly organize events on weekdays, evenings or weekends.”
The association also hosts some of its own events here, and members and non-members alike always love the location and the views.
Like every other venue, COVID-19 has wiped out the 2020 event season for the APhA. However, things picked up speed at the end of 2021 and have been going from strength to strength ever since.
“Having the majority of our special event space considered outdoors makes potential clients more comfortable planning special events, even though there is some uncertainty surrounding COVID-19,” said Mcdonalds. “We see 2022 becoming our busiest special event season yet, and that trend continues into 2023.”
Advice for other associations
For other associations that have a large space that they would consider renting, McDonald says to think about it because there is a lot of work involved in managing the event space.
“It’s important to be prepared for the amount of work that will be required to create and grow this new business from scratch,” McDonald said. “A lot of time and energy will be spent on everything from creating and updating an annual marketing plan, to creating and maintaining a new website, to obtaining permits city annuals, managing vendor relationships, conducting site visits and visits with confirmed clients, supervising wedding rehearsals, recruiting and training event managers to assist with management on-site events and plan all building services necessary to host each event. »
However, if an association is willing to run events, McDonald’s suggests going.
“Hosting special events can add a new revenue stream, and it can also be a great way to expose non-members to your association’s history and mission,” he said. .
How does your association use its conference or meeting space for non-business events? Share in the comments.