Location is key to residents living in two elegant neighboring buildings on New Hampshire Avenue in Northwest Washington.
The Windermere and Harrowgate buildings, constructed in 1927, housed nurses for the Army Nurses Corps during World War II, which may explain why 70 percent of the units are studio apartments.
Rob Harlow, 35, lives in one of those studios. "I've lived here for five long years. I've seen the transition of the neighborhood," he said. "I live in a very small apartment but the location is fantastic. I like the area."
Dupont Circle, with its Metro station, is a few blocks to the south. Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor are also within walking distance.
The apartment is small but provides access to a prized lifestyle, said Violeta Vintilescu, 34. She and her husband have lived together in a studio apartment since May 2004. "I like better to be in a neighborhood where there are people on the street and you can go to the grocery store," she said. She said she prefers not to live in areas where one needs a car.
Vintilescu, a French teacher, can walk to work at Georgetown University or take a shuttle bus. She said she can walk downtown in 30 minutes. Her husband, a physician, commutes to his research position at the National Institutes of Health.
"The neighborhood has just gotten progressively better. Whole Foods is 15 minutes away on foot," Harlow said, referring to the store on P Street NW near Logan Circle.
Older buildings are built "a little more solidly," said Mike Fisher, 26, who says he benefits because he cannot hear his neighbors. He also likes the charm of older buildings. Fisher, who recently graduated from Georgetown University with a master's degree and is looking for a job, has lived in his studio apartment for seven months. "I like the fact that it is an older building with newly renovated units," he said.
"In 2000, new management began full-scale renovations of each of the units," said Jeff Robinson, the property manager. The renovations have been completed in about 90 percent of the apartments. Kitchens are now glossy and elegant with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, including a European-style refrigerator, which is narrower and smaller than the U.S. standard. Each renovated unit has a gas stove and garbage disposal; most have dishwashers. Residents say cooking for one is easy in the kitchen, which is compact. The 221 apartments have wood floors and nine-foot ceilings.
The clean, new feel of the renovation attracted Rossanna Hernandez, 30. She said she went to many buildings but chose Windermere-Harrowgate because "it's nice outside, the hallways are clear, the colors are nice and it doesn't smell bad," she said.
Like many older District apartment buildings, the complex is covered by the District's rent stabilization law, which restricts how much landlords can charge existing tenants. New tenants can be charged what the market will bear -- often a lot more, particularly after extensive renovations.
When building upgrades began, Keener Management offered existing tenants buyouts.
Harlow, who lived there then, debated accepting the offer, but calculated that two years of staying where he was would save him more money than they were offering. "Until I buy a place, it is a great place to save money," he said.
The tradeoff for staying has been an increase in noise due to construction, which the management company alerted people to, Harlow said. The noise that Harlow is most aware of is the floor-to-floor noise. He made numerous complaints.
While the apartments have wood floors, property manager Robinson said, the management company requires carpeting only if there are noise complaints. He said the concrete construction helps diminish noise between apartments.
But while Harlow might be upset about the noise, he is pleased with the management. "The people who run the management company are very good, very responsive. They deal well with tenants," Harlow said.
Vintilescu said: "They take care of everything. In 24 hours if problems come up."
The apartment might be compact, but an additional storage unit in the basement provides Hernandez with ample space for her suitcase and skis, "so I don't have them in the middle of the apartment," she said.
The basement also has a 24-hour fitness room, a 24-hour laundry room and free bike storage. To ensure resident safety, there are controlled access to the buildings, a 24-hour courtesy guard and digital security cameras spread throughout the common facilities.
Harlow, a management consultant who works for different companies, often commutes to work via Metro, just a few blocks away. But he does have a car. "Parking is horrendous; parking after 5 can take anywhere between five minutes to a half an hour," he said.
Fisher got rid of his car when he moved from California and finds he does not need it. Hernandez said she can walk almost everywhere and recently walked to Adams Morgan, in heels, and had no complaints.
The apartments boast renovated kitchens with all-steel appliances and granite counter tops.