On a recent weekend afternoon, Charles and Kirsty Hornbostel took their 2-year-old dog Kia, a border collie-black Labrador mix, for a romp in a wood-chip covered, fenced-in dog run at the Rose Hill apartments.
The Hornbostels, like many pet owners, had the needs of their dog high on their minds when they were searching for an apartment. They looked at two other pet-friendly Northern Virginia complexes.
"Their dog runs were tiny. This was by far the biggest one," Kirsty Hornbostel said. They also ruled out an otherwise attractive high rise "because there was no grass, it was just concrete," she said.
They stopped searching when they saw Rose Hill, with its dog run and wide lawns between buildings.
The 445-unit complex is the second Northern Virginia property where management company A.J. Dwoskin & Associates Inc. has built a dog run. The first, at Tysons Glen, "was hugely successful," said Dwoskin's Julie Contos, and several residents moved in specifically for the run. "Being pet-friendly is an advantage for our communities," she said.
Rose Hill is in the Rose Hill neighborhood, a part of Fairfax County that carries an Alexandria address. It is made up of buildings that used to be two separate properties. Rose Hill I, distinguishable by its balconies, was built in 1962 and contains 181 units. The larger Rose Hill II, officially called Prince Fairfax on leases, was built in 1964 and is made up of 264 units. Dwoskin purchased the complexes in 1986 and combined them.
The complex is just east of Van Dorn Street off Franconia Road, a convenient location for commutes to Springfield or Old Town. It's less than a 10-minute bus ride to either the Van Dorn or Huntington Metro stations.
Unlike many rental communities, Rose Hill does not charge a monthly pet rent. Instead, it charges a nonrefundable one-time fee based on the full-grown weight of the pet. (The animal's veterinarian must supply that weight to the landlord.) The current fee for a pet up to 30 pounds is $300, while for a 75-pound pet, the largest Rose Hill accepts, it's $800.
The management company's decision to accept large pets -- up to 100 pounds at three of its other apartment communities (Bren Mar, Stuart Woods and Tysons Glen) -- is rare in Northern Virginia.
"It's a niche," Contos said.
Rose Hill's dog run provides a place where pets can run off-leash, property manager Mona Williams said. At Rose Hill, the space is more like a square dog park than the usual long, narrow dog run. The area, which is 31-by-47 feet, is covered with wood chips and surrounded by a six-foot-high fence. There is also a "doggie station" with plastic bags for cleaning up after pets.
Resident Georgette McArthur used to walk dogs for her neighbors, but said she wasn't aware of the new run. She is grateful that "people usually clean up right after their dogs."
McArthur, who moved to Rose Hill from a nearby community two years ago, had specifically sought out "a safe neighborhood, convenient for shopping, a full-sized washer and dryer and a dishwasher."
She said that she has found such a location at Rose Hill. "I feel very safe here," she said. "I walk early in the morning."
She lives in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony. "I don't use my balcony very much, but in the spring and summer I have flowers out there," she said.
"I feel safe walking to the shopping center," next to the community, she said. She also enjoys being close to Fairfax County's John Marshall Library across the street, next to the elementary school. The librarians "are very accommodating," she said. "They know I have trouble seeing, so whenever I go there, someone always comes over to offer help."
The strip mall next to Rose Hill has a grocery store, as well as services and fast food. "We walk to the Rose Hill shopping center a lot," Charles Hornbostel said. "That's a factor for Kirsty because she doesn't drive."
Kirsty also walks to the Kingstowne shops, about 30 minutes along a bike trail that runs by the apartments. The paved trails for bikes and pedestrians wind through the adjacent community of single-family houses and townhouses.
McArthur said she has found the neighbors to be friendly. "Each season there's something special we do," such as the Christmas sing-along in the community room. Last year, a resident played his keyboard and another his guitar while neighbors sang carols.
There are other resident gatherings for other seasons, McArthur said. "You can be as sociable as you want."
Simple, functional kitchens help make the Rose Hill complex a practical choice at reasonable rents.