Hunter's Park, one of Arlington County's newest affordable housing options, provides independent living for seniors. Its location goes a long way toward increasing that independence -- it sits directly across Lee Highway from the Cherrydale Safeway, making banking and grocery shopping easy.

The building is owned by AHC Inc., which operates about 2,000 affordable apartment units in Arlington, in buildings constructed and run with support from a combination of government subsidies. Hunter's Park is its first project designated for senior citizens; residents of the 74-unit building must be 62 or older.

AHC bought the property in 2002, when it was a strip of one-story stores, using a combination of its own equity, federal low-income housing tax credits, a commercial bank mortgage and an Arlington County low-interest loan. Construction of the new building was finished in December. In January, the first residents moved in.

In addition to the 74 residential units, the building contains 4,600 feet of street-level retail space. That space should be occupied some time this summer, according to Catherine Bucknam, AHC's director of community relations. "Mattress Warehouse is leasing the majority of the space and we are in negotiations with another retailer for the remaining space," she said.

The four units on the first floor are handicapped accessible. All others are accessible by stair or elevator. None are assisted living units; all residents must be fully mobile and able to care for themselves.

Besides age, residents must also qualify based on income level: $12,000 to $37,500 per year for a single resident and $12,000 to $42,800 per year for two residents. The management accepts federal Section 8 vouchers and Arlington County housing grants. In addition, a grant from the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. allows rental of five of the units for residents making between $12,000 and $22,000 per year.

"I didn't think I'd qualify at first," said new resident Shirley Bowman, but she is grateful she did. Her favorite activities so far have been watching movies in the great room with other residents and playing in the first of what are to be monthly Bingo games. "I didn't win anything, but was really nice," she said.

The property is named for James B. Hunter III, a longtime Arlingtonian and the first president of AHC in 1976-77. "He was well-loved in Arlington. . . . He had taken a very strong stand on affordable housing and the need for it," said Bucknam.

About 60 of the building's units have been rented so far, according to Pamla Bennett, on-site manager/resident services coordinator.

All of the units at Hunter's Park have one bedroom. There are several different floor plans, all 525 square feet, Bennett said. Some kitchens are divided from the living room and dining room area by a long countertop peninsula, while others are designed with a countertop, cabinet and pass-through.

One feature that differentiates the building from non-senior apartment complexes is the pull cord located in every bathroom. For about $20 per month, residents can activate the cord with a security company. A tug on the cord triggers emergency services dispatch. So far only about five residents have subscribed to the service, Bennett said.

Maxine Jackson, one of the first residents, said she can't afford the monthly fee for the cord. She was surprised to learn it was an additional cost. Other than that and the fact that individual units do not have balconies, she is happy with the building. Jackson said she takes the bus that stops near the building everywhere she needs to go, including Tysons Corner, which requires a transfer to another bus.

The community was designed with public space for residents to sit and socialize, according to Bucknam. The large second floor terrace has plenty of teak furniture for reading, chatting or dining. It looks out over tree-lined North Nelson Street and the Cherrydale Health and Rehabilitation Center next door. The great room and adjacent fireplace room have large windows that face the street, for sunning and people-watching.

Resident Irene Edmonds said she enjoys snacking on the cookies that management provides some afternoons, as well as chatting with friends at the large table across from the fireplace.

Edmonds has lived at Hunter's Park for three months. She found out about the apartments from her sister and brother-in-law, who have lived "for years" in the neighborhood that she calls Hall's Hill, now known formally as Highview Park.

"It's convenient," Edmonds said of the building's location. "I've been more active since I've been here," because she doesn't have to leave the building to go to a movie or to church.

The community hosts a movie night Mondays in the great room and Edmonds has joined with a few neighbors for a resident-organized Sunday morning church service.

She said, "It makes it convenient when you can't get to your church -- you can still come and get inspired."

Maxine Jackson finds buses that stop near the Hunter's Park apartments will take her wherever she wants to go.