Twinning Convenience and Comfort in Silver Spring

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page T05

Residents say the Twin Towers apartment complex, in the heart of Silver Spring, is a great place to live whether you commute to work or are retired.

It's also nice if you happen to be a beauty pageant contestant.

Barbara Mills, front desk supervisor, has worked at Twin Towers apartments in downtown Silver Spring for 21 years. (Jessica Tefft For The Washington Post)

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Motivated by a rent hike at the apartment complex where she had been living, Sandra Davis moved into her one-bedroom unit at the 16-story Twin Towers in February.

She liked the location, close to downtown Silver Spring's restaurants, movie theaters, clothing boutiques, beauty salons and public transportation. She liked the friendly and efficient staff.

But Davis, 40, who said she was first runner-up in the 2003 Mrs. Virginia American Queen Pageant, really liked her new closets.

"There's four closets -- there's a lot of space," she said. "It's wonderful, because I have room for my evening gowns. Evening gowns take up a lot of space. I also have a couple of costumes, cocktail dresses I use for opening numbers at pageants. I can keep all that together. I like to divide my wardrobe by seasons, and I can do that by closet."

A paralegal at a law firm in downtown Washington, Davis also appreciates living close to public transportation.

A Metro Red Line station is about a block and a half away, and a free Montgomery County bus takes residents to and from nearby destinations.

"On a good day, when the trains are on time, I can get to my job in about 35 minutes," Davis said. "It's not a bad commute at all."

That level of convenience is a big plus for Izell Washington, 78, an Air Force retiree who rents a one-bedroom unit.

"I walk half a block to catch the free bus to the Safeway or the Giant," said Washington, who does not own a car. "It's a good place to live if you don't have a vehicle."

Washington said he approves of everything else about the Twin Towers. "I've lived here twice," he said. "You can tell I like it."

Washington initially moved there in 1993, and moved out in 1997 when he got married. The marriage didn't last -- Washington and his wife split up after 16 months -- but Washington's attraction to the Twin Towers endured.

Right after the marriage dissolved, Washington moved back into a one-bedroom unit at the Twin Towers, in February 1999.

Twin Towers is owned and operated by the Southern Management Corp., the largest privately owned property management firm in the mid-Atlantic region. Washington and other tenants praised the Twin Towers staff, including the people at the front desk and the maintenance workers.

"The people are nice. The management is nice," Washington said. "I dislike the rent going up every year, but they do that everywhere. When you call maintenance with a problem, they take care of it right away."

The complex was built in 1967. Until the late 1980s, the units on the second floor were used as hotel rooms, and all the apartments on that floor have balconies. At one point in the 1980s, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) had an apartment in the Twin Towers, said Katie Sorota, a Southern Management spokeswoman.

There is a pool and deck on the roof of the south tower, and underground garage parking is available for $75 a month.

Parking wasn't an issue when John Nelson, 70, moved into Twin Towers in 1970 -- there wasn't much of a downtown Silver Spring then. There were few stores and restaurants, and the opening of the Silver Spring Metro station was still eight years away.

In the last decade, however, development in the neighborhood has flourished. Today, downtown Silver Spring is home to the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre, the Majestic 20 theaters, a Whole Foods, a Giant, a Safeway and numerous boutiques and restaurants.

"You couldn't find a better place to be a retiree," said Nelson, who used to work in the shipping industry.

"I can walk to the grocery stores, to the dry cleaners," he said. "In the time I've lived here, I've seen Silver Spring decline, and I've seen it come back."

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