Alexandria's Lloyd Apartments have changed little since they were built in the 1940s, and yet the 299-unit complex engenders loyalty among its residents and staff -- a loyalty that, for some, has spanned decades.
There's no clubhouse or fitness center, no swimming pool or business center, no dishwashers or garbage disposals. The nine coin-operated laundry rooms, with their concrete floors and cinderblock walls, are strictly utilitarian. A fallout shelter sign from the 1950s still adorns one of the buildings. Window air conditioners and high-speed Internet access are about the extent of modern conveniences.
Residents aren't complaining, though. John Stanton, 45, a library cataloguer for Arlington County who sidelines as a guitarist-vocalist with local bands, said: "The older solid buildings have their advantages. I don't want to irritate others with my music."
Melissa Pettit's parents were living at the Lloyd Apartments when she was born 34 years go. Her parents still live there, as does her married sister. Pettit, a 1987 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, is now the assistant resident manager. "It makes it hard to call in sick on snow days," she joked of her two-minute commute.
Doris Webster, who has lived at the Lloyd for almost 40 years, enjoyed a similar commute three times a day for part of her 26 years as one of Alexandria's school crossing guards.
"She was my crossing guard," said Pettit, who attended Charles Barrett Elementary School, across the street from the apartments.
Webster, now in her eighties, makes chocolate chip cookies for the maintenance personnel and enjoys strolls around the Lloyd's well-landscaped grounds, greeting neighbors with a big smile.
The Lloyd Apartments are well situated for strolling. Being tucked between the lush rolling terrain of the Beverley Hills neighborhood and the sprawling Park Fairfax community adds to the Lloyd's homey atmosphere, even though busy West Glebe Road is just a block away.
Ranjay Barua, 26, was relaxing on a bench outside his apartment recently, chatting on his cell phone. Originally from Bangladesh, Barua praised the Lloyd's peaceful setting.
"The quiet helps me to write my poetry," said Barua, who works at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City.
Virginia Lucrezi, who has lived at the Lloyd since 1964, said: "The neighborhood really makes a difference." She and her late husband raised two children in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment that she described as "very comfortable."
In 1999, Lucrezi's daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Ronnie Bond, moved into the same building. Ronnie Bond said: "It's reasonably priced, so we can save and invest for a house."
The Bonds, the parents of an 8-month-old baby, have joined the stroller set on long walks throughout the adjacent neighborhoods.
The brick garden apartment buildings have one- and two-bedroom units, each with only one bathroom, plaster walls, hardwood floors, cast-iron radiators and narrow kitchens where everything is within easy reach.
All utilities are included in the rent and parking is free and plentiful, but residents save their most enthusiastic praise for how management has created a caring community.
"Whenever you have problems, people help you immediately. You are part of the family," said Wei-Ye Jia, 48, a freelance cameraman for Japanese television.
Tim Lawrence, 44, a studio supervisor with the National Geographic Channel, agreed. "The staff is always on top of things. If I ask for anything, it's taken care of that day."
Elliott L. Burka, managing general partner of the local investment group that owns the Lloyd, as well as the Fillmore Gardens in Arlington, said: "We've been blessed with good people. We screen tenants carefully to maintain the integrity of the community. There's a good ethnic cross-section here."
"We're pretty strict," said Vilma Rains, the resident manager for 15 years. Blaring radios and noisy parties are not tolerated.
Still, said Steve Levin, the chief maintenance engineer, "We like to have fun while we work." When a visitor asked to see one of the models, Levin grinned, twisted into a body-builder pose and said, "How's this?"
"We have the best chief engineer you can find," Rains said. "People have tried to steal him from me."
Whatever the task, Levin performs it with good humor. He said his most unusual request was to retrieve a resident's escaped pet iguana as it scurried up an outside wall. He succeeded.
"We bend over backwards here to help. There's pride in taking care of people's needs and wants," said Levin, who lives on-site, as do other maintenance and landscaping employees.
The Lloyd's maintenance team is encouraged to take additional training at company expense. That prompted Fredy Reyes to join the crew. Reyes said his previous employers wouldn't give him any responsibility; the Lloyd's owners sent him to the National Association of Power Engineers for training in boiler maintenance. "They said I could take any other classes I want," he said.
Lucrezi said, "Fredy is new, but he can fix anything in a minute."
Asked if she had any misgivings about not purchasing a home over the past 40 years, Lucrezi said, "No regrets. I've lived here 40 years and only had one problem with neighbors. You never hear people yelling and fighting. The maintenance is superb. It's a nice, decent place to live."