If you have ever sat in traffic on Interstate 395 between Duke Street and Seminary Road, you have probably noticed Willow Run.
The complex of three-story garden apartments built in 1962 spreads over 25 acres to the east of I-395 at the bottom of the hill between the two highway exits. Even though it's so close to the interstate and fronts on busy Van Dorn Street, the community has a somewhat pastoral feel. Grassy lawns stretch between the buildings, with pet clean-up stations for dog walking and paved pathways for strolling.
The units, ranging from 700 to 1,550 square feet at prices from $1,045 to $1,750, provide close-in living at a comparatively reasonable price. There are a number of floor plans, including two styles of two-bedroom units and three styles of three-bedroom units.
More than half the units have three bedrooms, which makes Willow Run popular with families and roommates.
Isabel and Mike Greenbaum reared a child in their three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. They have lived at Willow Run for more than 40 years, since 1964.
A lot has changed in that time. "There was no traffic then. 395, which I still call Shirley Highway -- there were only four lanes total. You used to not even be able to see the highway," remembered Isabel Greenbaum, because the road's original construction left a wide buffer of trees between it and the apartments.
Mike Greenbaum remembers that entertainer Mitch Miller of "Sing Along With Mitch" used to own the property. "He was a big star. He used to come out and have a big party for us" every year, Greenbaum recalled.
The Greenbaums say they remained as long as they have because of the convenience to Mike's work, first in the District and then in Baileys Crossroads, as well as the friendliness and competence of the staff.
"All of the employees are very pleasant. . . . The maintenance is good. They're very helpful," Mike Greenbaum said.
Staff members seem to enjoy one another's company. On a recent weekend afternoon, maintenance manager Abu Turay dandled on-site property manager Princess Foster-El's baby on his knee when Foster-El stopped by the office to handle some quick business on her day off.
"I try to be a visual, hands-on manager -- not just over the phone, but actually visiting the units when there's a problem, checking laundry rooms" and walking through the property, said Foster-El.
Turay has been handling maintenance for six years and is also a resident at Willow Run.
"He's our troubleshooter," said Maxwell Evans, portfolio manager for the JBG Cos., the Chevy Chase real estate firm that owns Willow Run. Both Turay and Evans used to work for the previous owner, Alexandria-based Mark Winkler Co. They have been with JBG since March 2006, when that firm bought Willow Run along with a number of other properties, including the Shops at Mark Center.
The Shops, with a grocery store, restaurants, drugstore, bank and video rental store as well as other conveniences, are about a three-quarter mile walk from Willow Run. Landmark Mall is less than a half-mile away. This close-by shopping, plus a shuttle to the Pentagon Metro station, allow for car-free living.
Because the property abuts a number of other complexes under the same management -- to the west, across I-395 and accessible by underpass -- residents can use all the amenities at Mark Center, including three swimming pools, seven tennis courts, an exercise facility, business center, resident lounge and party room, and walking trails.
But residents don't have to go far for a little nature. Large, old trees stand throughout the property, giving shelter to many birds, whose chirping on a midwinter afternoon suggested spring. "They all seem to congregate here," Evans said.
Nohemi Perez said her son Oscar "really likes the little birds" that chirp in throngs outside the window of their apartment building at the eastern end of Willow Run. On a recent afternoon, Oscar, who is almost 2, looked uncertain as his mother helped him onto the colorful jungle gym in the tot lot next to the swimming pool. It's one of three playground areas at the complex.
"My son loves the birds and the playground," she said. Oscar was soon navigating the slide enthusiastically.
Perez moved to Willow Run just four months ago from a different apartment in the area and is pleased so far. "The maintenance is good. It's beautiful here."