Bridgette Martin-Pyles and her children set a frenetic pace their first week at the Southern Walk rental complex in Ashburn this spring.
They visited the swimming pool nearly every night, they rode their bikes, they checked out the new library and elementary school, they walked their dog and they lost a hermit crab somewhere in their townhouse.
One day in the clubhouse, Robby Pyles, 8, and Clare Pyles, 5, crashed around the playroom while their mother chatted and worked out in the connected fitness room. The clubhouse has a pool, locker rooms, a business center and a large community room complete with player piano, flat-screen television, stone fireplace and full-sized bar.
Southern Walk, a 292-unit community, opened in May 2003. It is part of Broadlands, a Loudoun County planned community that when completed within the next few years will have 4,000 single-family houses, townhouses, apartments and condominiums, said Sally Maher, the information center manager at Broadlands.
"We met most of the kids at the pool on Friday and we went to the Broadlands Live music festival," Martin-Pyles said. The festival is a monthly event with a band, food and drinks and is sponsored by Van Metre Cos., owner of Southern Walk and one of the developers of Broadlands.
"People have just been really friendly. Everyone here has just gone out of their way," Martin-Pyles said.
Southern Walk not only has its own clubhouse, but it also allows access to all that Broadlands offers, which includes acres of woodlands and wetlands, a nature center and trails with butterfly boxes and birdhouses.
Like other Van Metre apartment complexes, Southern Walk participates in a company program that lets renters build up credit to purchase a Van Metre home.
"The HomePlus program allows the renter to put 50 percent of everything paid in rent toward the purchase of a home, up to 3 percent of the purchase price of the home," said Jennifer Osterholz, Southern Walk's leasing manager.
Cheryl Huff, 41, said she and her husband, both runners, were pleased by the community's trails. She said they are well lit and landscaped and close enough to the road for safety but far enough away that the runner isn't breathing in fumes.
Jennifer Waskey, 28, who lives with her partner, Emily, said, "I think it's nice. We moved from Alexandria. It's kind of nice to get away. Here, there is a lot of greenery and a lot of luxury really close by because it is growing really fast."
And it is "very doggie social," said Waskey, who owns a seven-month-old dachshund named Freddie.
John Kratzke, 30, walks his overweight husky, Dylan, around the complex. The dog has lost 20 pounds, he said.
His family has lived in the community for more than seven months, and he said he is "very happy to have high-speed Internet and cable TV built into the rent." The community offers a technology package for $60 per month, which includes basic cable, Internet access and four HBO channels.
Huff moved into the community in May, attracted by the floor plan. The unit is large, she said. "It's gorgeous and I cook a lot, so I was like who-wha, a kitchen with big windows and a pantry, so excited."
Each kitchen has a microwave oven, gas burners and lots of space. Each unit also has a spacious laundry room with a full-size washer and dryer.
Although Huff was enthusiastic at first, she is no longer as happy with her unit. She has a number of complaints; she needed a tetanus shot after cutting her foot on a tack sticking out of the carpet. She added that the maintenance staff responded promptly.
"We absolutely have an immediate response to things like that," said Cynthia Gardner, director of marketing for Van Metre. Huff has also had problems with noise, but other people said the complex was fairly quiet. Waskey said she does not hear other people unless there is some sort of gathering.
Joe Vielmette, 57, who has lived in Southern Walk since December, said he likes the Internet access and the safe feel of the area. He has moved around for work a lot, he said. "I have had a lot of different places. You can't beat it," he said. "I would give it a 10."