Two years ago, Sheri Smith was looking for an apartment that would accommodate her, her husband, their teenage daughter and their bichon puppy.
Twenty-three years ago, Theresa Minnick called 10 places before she found an apartment complex that would welcome her cat.
While both women chose to live at Peppertree Farm in Silver Spring because of their pets, they have found plenty of other reasons to stay.
"I feel it's my home," said Minnick, who worked for 31 years at the Giant Food store at Wheaton Plaza.
Peppertree Farm, with 880 garden-style units, and its related complex, Cinnamon Run, with an additional 511 units, straddle Connecticut Avenue at Bel Pre Road, just above Aspen Hill. The complexes, only a five-minute ride from the Red Line's Glenmont station, are in an area bustling with recreational, cultural and shopping venues. Residents are close to summer concerts at Strathmore Park or the tennis and racquetball courts at the Aspen Hill Club, which William Allen, a phone network connection worker who has lived in Cinnamon Run since 1994, describes as a Mecca for tennis buffs.
"The area is in a central location with banking, craft stores and Home Depot all within five minutes," Smith said. The stores are within walking distance, although reaching them requires crossing major roads.
Minnick, who does not drive, said, "You can get a bus to go anywhere."
Peppertree and Cinnamon Run share low-key recreational facilities, including a center where floor-to-ceiling windows flank two sides of the large clubroom. The mood in this room varies with the season or time of day. Last month, a Sunday evening crowd gathered around the large-screen TV set to watch the Super Bowl. On a recent weekday morning, three residents chatted quietly by the cozy fire. Activities are planned about once a month and include appreciation brunches for residents and movie nights for children.
Carol Schwartz is a 12-year resident who recently helped restart an aerobics class on the premises. "We have a nice bunch of girls who meet three times a week," said Schwartz, who works for Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, a 15-minute commute.
There are many children at Peppertree and Cinnamon Run. When school lets out, the sidewalks are full of students from nearby schools, including Kennedy High, Argyle Middle and Georgian Forest Elementary. During the school year, there is an after-school homework club for elementary-age children. A bookmobile comes by regularly in the summer. There is also a year-round, privately owned day-care center on site for children ages 2 to 12.
"There are always kids out playing here," said tenant Susan Greco.
The apartment complexes sit among mature trees and share 40 acres of green space. The buildings were constructed in five phases from 1972 to 1982.
Residents say the apartments are roomy. Several praised the eat-in kitchens, which are large enough for a table for four. "We use that space for our computer center," said Jennifer Lynne Donahue, who moved to Cinnamon Run two months ago with her husband and their 10-year-old beagle. "We were amazed at how much room we had," added Donahue, who works for the Army in Rosslyn.
About 250 units in Peppertree also have a bump-out bay window in the kitchen that extends the space visually and practically. In a handful of end units, two bump-out bays allow for extra light in the master bedroom.
As with any apartment complex this large, perceptions of community spirit vary among residents. While some tenants do not know their neighbors, Minnick and Smith both say people are friendly.
Because there are no elevators, "it's hard for me to get my groceries up to the third floor," Minnick said. "But my neighbors always offer to help."
She says she sees neighborliness as a two-way street. "Whenever someone moves in, we go and introduce ourselves," she said.
The grounds at the complexes are neatly maintained, and there is a prohibition against major auto repair in the parking lot. That was important to Smith, who said she notices what kind of cars are around when she was looking for a place to live.
"Here, there are late-model cars, well kept. No junk or cars up on cinder blocks," said Smith, who works out of her home for the Maryland Medical Society.
Silver Spring-based Grady Management Inc. recently upgraded the landscaping at Peppertree and Cinnamon Run, adding new trees and bright signs. "They took out a lot of dying trees and opened up the area around the buildings," Smith said.
"There's more visibility," she said. "First impressions are important when people come to visit."