Victory Tower helps Betty Jones keep active.
"I absolutely love it," said Jones, 67, the president of the residents' council at the newly renovated 187-unit Takoma Park apartment building for seniors. "I don't expect to move again. . . . I'm going to die out of this place."
She said she's busier in retirement than when she was working -- she spends part of her time helping out at church and much of her time making Victory Tower a better place to live. The council, with the help of management, throws monthly birthday parties, arranges trips, and has opened a thrift shop in the basement to help tenants and provide funding for trips and donations for charities.
"We do a few things like give to the fire and rescue squad," Jones said. "They come a lot here."
Both the building's location and its on-site amenities make a lively routine easier for residents. Victory Tower, situated in the heart of historic Takoma Park, is within walking distance of a bank, a post office and local shops. Residents can catch a bus right outside the door or walk a few blocks to the Metro. A shuttle bus comes every Wednesday to take tenants grocery shopping.
The building boasts small touches that make the place homey, such as the murals painted on each floor. The color palette in the building is creamy white, yellow and blue.
Apartments have been renovated to appear more spacious. The divider between kitchen and living room was knocked down and new appliances were installed, along with lighter cabinets and new flooring.
For residents no longer eager to cook, the building offers a meal plan. Food is cooked in a large commercial kitchen and served in a large, sunny dining room.
Jones isn't on the meal plan but still uses the dining room a few times a week. And even though she still cooks, she said, if a time comes when she would prefer not to, it's convenient to have dining facilities downstairs. "Since the dining room is so lovely now, it makes it a pleasure to eat there," she said.
Just outside the dining room, there is a large gazebo and patio area. Around the corner, there is a small vegetable garden where residents can grow their own vegetables. Iva Waldron, 80, grew vegetables all summer. Some of her eggplant went to the kitchen staff.
The building also has a health room, where professionals come in to take blood-pressure readings and perform other screenings. For residents who want to play, there are a billiards room and a fitness center. There also is a widescreen television in the community room, and there are plans for a beauty salon soon.
Thomas Schweinhaut, 76, lives in the one-bedroom apartment next to Jones. His quiet 12th-floor home has tremendous views of Washington and across to Rosslyn.
Like other residents, Schweinhaut said he appreciates the newly upgraded security in the building. Each apartment has three emergency pulls, so residents can alert staff if there is a problem. The building has cameras, new lighting and controlled access. There is a 24-hour guard at the desk. There also are a sprinkler system and a fire alarm in the apartments.
"For people that are on a fixed income, you couldn't have a better place to live than here," Schweinhaut said.
The building is restricted to people 62 and older (or younger than 62 with disabilities) who make no more than $31,250 per year. Residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income in rent. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department provides subsidies, as does the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission on some apartments.
Victory Tower is owned by a partnership headed by Victory Housing Inc., which is the affordable-housing agency of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. John D. Spencer, Victory Housing's vice president and chief operating officer, said redevelopment funds were provided through the sale of $5.6 million in low-income-housing tax credits allocated by the state, a $1.1 million long-term low interest loan from Montgomery County and $700,000 in seller financing. The company also took out a $5.2 million loan.
Spencer said that Victory Housing has built other housing for seniors using such financing but that this was the first time HUD has allowed it to use the funding to update a property.