Tenants of the Walker House complex in Gaithersburg's Montgomery Village say they enjoy the quiet coziness and the personal service the apartment community provides.
The main high-rise apartment building that houses all but 16 of the 212 units of Walker House is comfortable. Its solid brick walls and low-ceilinged lobby create a warm, homey feeling. Residents clearly feel like they're home, because tenants stay for years.
Even though the building is not restricted to senior citizens, there are many older residents with lengthy tenures. Alice Haskins, 89, for instance, has lived in the 33-year-old building for 23 years. "I think living in this building is keeping me young," she said. "This is so wonderful -- good security, good management."
June Isherwood, 90, has been in the building since 1977. Her sister lives there, too. "I like it. There is nothing like it," Isherwood said. ". . . Until a little while ago, there were people who had lived here as long as I have. . . . My other sister lived here, too, until she died. So it was a family affair."
Isherwood added, "I'm pleased with the location and the way it is kept. There is a wonderful manager, and she is a nice person, too. She really takes an interest and tries to help out."
When Sam Bornstein, 90, started a biweekly poker club for residents, community manager Karen Kopas "got us a poker table," he said. Bornstein has lived at Walker House for almost four years and is impressed with Kopas. "She makes tenants here feel friendly," he said. "If she promises you something . . . she keeps her promise."
Kopas said, "That is an important part of customer service. When we say we are going to do something, we are going to do it. . . . We certainly need to do it if we promise to do it. . . . We do as many extra services for our residents as we can."
Bornstein said, "Service is awful important. This place is great with that -- competent people." Once when his apartment had a leak, he recalled, the head of maintenance showed up to fix it, even though it was a Saturday night.
"If I go out in the morning and tell them there is a dripping faucet, I come back from shopping and they've fixed it," Haskins said.
Linda Hansch, 71, has lived in Walker House for three years. She had been in Gaithersburg for 30 years before moving away to Colorado. A year later she was back. "It's nice and very convenient," she said.
"I don't drive," Hansch said. "There are a lot of people like me living here, my age, in the same situation. A lot of us don't drive anymore."
But a car is hardly a necessity at Walker House. "Transportation is wonderful," Haskins said. There is a bus that picks tenants up outside the front door. Many residents, including Bornstein and Haskins, regularly ride to Lakeforest Mall and walk through the shopping center.
Among the building's amenities is a convenience store, which makes life even easier for those who don't drive. "I went to my sister and she had the wrong kind of cinnamon," Isherwood said. "I went down to the little store and they had it down there." Haskins said that when she can't go out, she can find what she needs in the store, which sells groceries, beer and wine.
Younger residents also praise the building. Michael Yesenko, 39, moved recently from Texas to take a job with the federal government. He said it is a "quiet, safe, community with good security and close to the Metro."
Yesenko said his neighbors are "mostly older people, which makes it quiet."
That's a matter of perspective. As Bornstein sees it, "We're in the minority. There are a lot of young people moving in here," he said. "We're the exception rather than the rule. Lot of young couples, lot of marrieds and students."
Noelle Watson, a part-time student who has lived in the building for four years, has been doing double duty for the last several months, assisting in the management office. She said excellent bus service makes the building convenient. "I sold my car one summer and the bus would take me to Shady Grove."
Watson also likes her apartment unit, she said. "I live in an efficiency and it's got that alcove," which adds to the spacious feeling she said her huge balcony provides.
But John Joseph, 30, doesn't feel that sense of space. "For a one bedroom, it is pretty small. I lived in Toledo, Ohio, and had an apartment three times the size for half the price."
Joseph lives in the newer 16-unit garden-style building, which was completed in October 2003. He said he is counting down the days until he can move, mentally comparing his apartment with those of his friends.
For Hansch, who moved from a house, the apartment is "a lot smaller than I am used to." But that's not necessarily a minus.
"It's right for me," she said. "It's cozy, easier to take care of." The kitchen is small, which means she "keeps cupboards cleaner because you can't stuff them."
"I love it," Haskins said. "I am on the sixth floor and I face east. I have a beautiful view, and if I sit in my dining area, I feel like I'm in a chalet because all I see are green trees. They're turning now. . . . It's beautiful . . . I wish I could paint."