For the Ettrich family, the Oakwood Dulles apartment complex was a temporary home, but a good one.
"We were really pleasantly surprised by the service and the apartment itself," said Mark Ettrich, 36, who moved to Herndon to work for America Online Inc. Ettrich, who until recently lived with his wife and three children in a three-bedroom furnished apartment, is one of a number of AOL employees who have passed through Oakwood Dulles.
The 12-building, 411-unit complex is near the Dulles Toll Road, making it convenient to AOL and other employers in western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties. Oakwood Worldwide, of which the Dulles complex is part, specializes in managing complexes that include short-term housing, particularly corporate housing that provides a base for people while they search for more permanent homes. Oakwood Dulles offers furnished and unfurnished apartments with leases from a month to a year. Residents are a mix of short- and longer-term tenants.
Ettrich said his family took full advantage of the complex's recreation offerings. His children swam in the complex's pool for as much as three hours a day this summer, and his wife exercised at the clubhouse's 24-hour fitness center.
Their stint at Oakwood even influenced the Ettrichs' recent home purchase. "After this, we had to make sure we had a community pool," Mark Ettrich said.
Ruthanne and Mark Gordon, who have lived at Oakwood Dulles for two years, were poolside on the last steamy Sunday in August. About a half-dozen children were playing in the pool, but, Mark Gordon said, "Usually there are a lot more kids here."
As the Gordons lazed away the afternoon, off in the distance a plane could be heard. Even though they live close to Dulles International Airport, airplane noise isn't an issue, they said.
In addition to the swimming pool, the complex has a basketball court and a central clubhouse, which offers billiards and foosball tables. There's a video library with about 250 movies.
Oakwood hosts ice cream socials, barbecues and movie nights, with children's films and those for older viewers playing on alternate Fridays. A free personal trainer visits weekly. There's even the occasional doggy happy hour.
"It's a very friendly place to get to know your neighbors," Mark Gordon said, and his wife agreed.
The Gordons like the service. "I needed a vacuum cleaner one day and I called over. They let me use it," Ruthanne Gordon said. "They delivered it and picked it up."
Said Mark Gordon, a maintenance manager for an apartment complex himself, "The people here are very good."
Marian and Jim Brzostek, however, said they have had one major issue with maintenance. They had a problem with water leaking through a socket and said it took too long for repairs to be made. Other than that one instance, however, they have found that the personnel are friendly, and when they do have a complaint, it is handled.
Robert Roush, 74, who had a similar problem with a leak, said he received a timely and efficient response. "Anytime I have a problem, I call and they get right on it," said Rouse, a three-year resident.
Property manager Erik Birkelund said, "We can't guarantee that nothing is going to go wrong in your apartment. What I can promise is how do we fix it, how fast we fix it and what quality repair you get."
He added, "If you have an emergency at 4 o'clock in the morning, you get a live person. A lot of us live on-site. . . . There are 17 people working here. We believe in doing everything in-house. Painters, [air conditioning] engineers, landscapers all on staff."
The Brzosteks have lived in the community for one year and are planning to stay. Said Marian Brzostek, "It's a good, central location." Her husband, Jim Brzostek, 45, said he enjoys his commute into the District via bus and Metrorail.
"I can hop on the Fairfax Connector, and that will take me to the Metro," he said. "The Herndon Metro Park and Ride is free, to encourage riders."
In western Fairfax County, though, most people drive. Each Oakwood unit gets one assigned parking spot, and there are other free, unreserved spots throughout the complex, Birkelund said. There also are garage parking spaces available for rent. Jim Brzostek said, however, that his family has three cars, one for a teenage daughter, and that finding spots can sometimes be tough. "You put off running errands because you might not get a spot when you come back," he said.
The complex is near a variety of shopping centers, many of which have popped up in recent years as the population along the toll-road corridor has grown. To some tenants, including the Brzosteks, the recent opening of the huge new Wegmans supermarket in nearby Sterling was exciting. And, Marian Brzostek noted with some chagrin, her two teenage daughters find the proximity to shopping to be a huge perk.