Good things -- and good apartments -- can be worth waiting for. That's what Richard Huber kept telling himself in 1985, when he was looking for a new place to live and found the Consulate, a high-rise apartment building situated on a hill on Van Ness Street in Northwest Washington, just off Connecticut Avenue.
Huber knew exactly what he wanted: an apartment at tree level that faced south and offered clear views of the District's monuments. The Consulate, he was told, had just the place. Huber called the building's management every month for a year until a unit on the south side of the seventh floor opened up.
Twenty years later, the author and historian hasn't tired of looking out his window to the Washington National Cathedral, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.
Residents of the Consulate say the views are among the building's biggest selling points, but they're quick to point out the roster of impressive features within the building, too.
For starters, most of the Consulate's 269 apartments, a mixture of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, have three wide, curved steps that lead down into the living room. Residents say it's a nice change from the boxy feel of so many apartment buildings.
"It gives a different character to it," said Amy Bryant, 27, a lawyer for the federal government who moved into the building in 2003.
There's a 24-hour fitness center, updated a year ago to include new equipment such as an elliptical machine, in addition to treadmills, StairMasters and a weight center. There are storage bins in the basement that residents can rent. There's a small business center, where residents can use the Internet, make copies, scan and print documents for free.
And then there are smaller touches, such as the postage stamp machine and the complimentary coffee provided in the lobby.
"It's not bad," Bryant said of the free coffee. "At a lot of places the creamers will be regular creamers, but they usually have hazelnut cream or French vanilla cream you can use. It's a nice touch."
There are other hotel-like touches. For example, the 24-hour front desk staff have recently been renamed "resident concierges," said Lawrence Mitchell, the building's community manager. "We want our front desk to get into more than answering phones and taking messages."
Susan Meyers-Kahn, a 10-year resident, said the staff's attentiveness is "excellent." When she needs a taxi, they call one for her. When she dropped a cutting board in the crevice between her refrigerator and the sink, a maintenance worker fished it out for her. And when her husband recently had an emergency and needed to go to the hospital, the front desk jumped in and called an ambulance.
The management company, the Charles E. Smith division of Colorado-based Archstone-Smith, has a Web site where residents can submit and track service requests, as well as pay rent online.
With the Van Ness Metro stop only a block away, the Consulate's location is especially convenient, residents say.
"Architecturally, the area is ugly," Huber said. "It does not have the antique charm of Cleveland Park," which is a short walk away. "But in convenience, it has everything but a post office. It has a supermarket, a pharmacy, a Metro and frequent taxis."
Bryant said she likes the area because it is close to Rock Creek Park, where she likes to run, and because it feels safe.
"I can go out as a female by myself and walk down the street at night and not feel uncomfortable," she said. "To me, that's worth a lot of money."
Likewise, Bryant places a high value on the Consulate's outdoor pool. Big enough to swim laps and flanked by an expansive sun deck with chaise lounges and umbrella-shaded tables, the pool "is really great in the summer to lay out by," she said. "I'm from the south, so I'm pretty used to doing that. It really is fantastic."
The sun deck also boasts a number of grills, making it a popular spot for cookouts. Bryant and her boyfriend occasionally barbecue with the neighbors. "We just take our chicken and veggies down there and grill out," she said. "It's a nice place."
For the racquet-handy, the Consulate has table tennis as well as a tennis court.
"I tell my friends I have a tennis court, though I confess to them that I'm compelled to share it with other residents," Huber said. He said he often plays with his son and grandchildren when they come to visit.
There is no shortage of things to do at the Consulate, whether it's hitting balls, running in the park, lifting weights, grilling out or baking in the kitchens' full-sized ovens.
But best of all, perhaps, is a more sedentary option: sitting on a private balcony -- every unit has one -- and enjoying the views.
"It's nice to sit outside, drink wine and watch the world go by," Bryant said.