The Metropolitan of Fairfax may be well west of the Beltway, but that's not the middle of nowhere anymore.
"Reston and Herndon is like a new country out here. We used to think, 'Why would you ever want to go out there?,' but it's turned out to be a lovely community," said Jack Riley, a tenant since May at the new Herndon apartment building.
Riley lived in Fairfax County in the 1980s and early '90s before leaving the area for 10 years. When he returned this spring, he had reservations about living in a neighborhood he used to consider remote. But he wanted a place convenient to his job in Reston as well as to Dulles International Airport, which he uses roughly every five weeks. He's about 3 1/2 miles from work and about four miles from the airport. In normal traffic, each drive is less than 10 minutes. In rush hour, his worst commute to work has been about 25 minutes.
The 244-unit, four-story Metropolitan of Fairfax, one of a small local chain of luxury Metropolitan complexes run by Vienna-based KSI Services Inc., started leasing in March. At the beginning of this month, it was more than 90 percent leased.
Most of the building's residents found their apartments online. That's why "the majority of our residents are from out of state," said Laura Snyder, the general manager.
Resident Tara Russo, for example, wanted to find a place close to her new job in Reston before she left Colorado. "I did the whole search online," she said. She chose the Metropolitan because, she said, "I liked the look and feel; everything is very up-to-date and modern." She also likes that there are "a very wide range of lifestyles" in the building, including "a lot of single people."
The Metropolitan of Fairfax is in the midst of an area of new construction adjacent to the Herndon Clocktower Shopping Center. The building occupies a large square along Fox Hunt Lane, just off busy Fox Mill Road. Its neighbors include condos, townhouses and single-family houses, as well as at least one large office park within walking distance.
The pitched roofs and balconies give the building a homey feel; the multilevel, above-ground parking deck with assigned spots for each unit is hidden from the street view by design.
Residents can enter through side stairways convenient to their units or through the main lobby and clubhouse area, which provides elevator access.
The lobby's smooth tiling gives way to a sitting room with elegant upholstered furniture and artwork, a fireplace and amenities including a billiards room, theater, exercise room with rock-climbing wall, business center, pool and hot tub.
"People actually do socialize here," said Riley, noting the comfy sitting-room chairs with a view of the pool and adjacent arbor.
Riley is one of the long-timers at Metropolitan of Fairfax. He moved in May 1 and since then has met "at least six or seven sets of neighbors," he said.
He said he also loves the amenities, especially the weight room, pool and covered parking. "I can pull in to a covered garage and walk straight to my apartment," he said. This is an important feature for someone who is no longer used to snow and sleet after living in the Southeast for the past 10 years, he said.
Another plus of living in the building is how close it is to the Herndon Clocktower shops, restaurants and services. Residents mention the Gold's Gym, cleaners, Shoppers Food Warehouse, McDonald's and Irish pub as their favorite destinations.
Robert Lee and his wife, Kisha, have taken their two small children to the McDonald's several times in the month they have lived at Metropolitan of Fairfax. "We ride our bikes to the McDonald's all the time," said Lee.
The Chuck E. Cheese is also a favorite destination. Though Lee has a membership at Gold's, he plans to let it run out and use the gym at the apartment building instead.
The Lees found the Metropolitan of Fairfax after living in a different local apartment building. "We weren't happy with our residence, but we wanted to stay in the area," he said.
After an Internet search, they put the Metropolitan on a list of places to visit and consider. Specific features that initially attracted them were the high ceilings, gourmet kitchens, pool room and hot tub. "The amenities they listed were all the things that attracted us so much," Lee remembered.
When they toured the building, they were pleased with features such as the gourmet kitchens and fixtures throughout the units and common areas. He said, "Even the light fixtures were better made than in typical apartments."
These features don't come cheap. One-bedroom units start at $1,125 -- a premium for an outside-the-Beltway complex without Metro access. Rent for the smallest apartment, the 588-square-foot studio, starts at $919. This unit size has been quite popular, according to Snyder.
The building also has 24 affordable-dwelling units for those who qualify. These units were rented to two groups of residents: those making no more than 50 percent and no more than 65 percent of the area's median income. These units leased immediately and have a waiting list, Snyder said.
At the upper end, the two-bedroom, two-bath unit with den rents for nearly $1,600. Because the den has a window, closet and door, many residents use it as a third bedroom.
Besides what he considers the down-to-earth congeniality of the staff members, who handle concierge-type requests such as restaurant, shopping or service recommendations, Riley said he likes that there are so many professional people in the building. "Every morning, I see a lot of people with their laptops over their shoulders going to work, like me," he observed. He has recommended the community to several friends. "It makes me look forward to going home every night."