It's not hard to understand the attractiveness of living at Peachtree of McLean. Shaded by tall, established trees, with low stone walls framing flower beds and a serene fountain at its center, the property has a sort of elegance rare among 1970s-era apartments.
The Peachtree also has an unusual design for Fairfax County, where 82 percent of rental housing consists of low-rise or garden-style properties, according to county figures. The Peachtree offers 228 units in the familiar three- or four-story garden-style buildings connected by walkways and surrounded by an outer ring of parking; but it also has 112 units in a seven-story mid-rise facing the main entrance. That taller building offers features more commonly associated with downtown high-rises: a conference room, business center, billiards room with full-size table, and a party room with a bar that opens out to a patio area. Think of it as refined suburban.
That's exactly what George Washington University student Maeve Carey was looking for when she started hunting for a place to live. She appreciates the apartment's proximity to the I-66 entrance ramp, just a few blocks away. And for public transportation, it's less than a mile to the Metro. "Overall I'm really happy with the decision I made to move here, and so are my roommates," Carey said.
Though it is in suburbia, residents are not completely car-bound. Residents John and Rita Garramone like the fact that they can walk to many conveniences. Next door, the Tyson's Station strip mall includes Trader Joe's, a pizza restaurant and computer, furniture and wireless stores. Across Route 7, there's a Whole Foods as well as Starbucks and other strip mall staples, though residents warn that that the traffic is so heavy that they're leery of crossing, even at the traffic light.
The Peachtree's name is rooted in its history. It's built on 17 acres of the former Falls Church Orchard, which for decades covered 60 acres of farmland stretching from Route 7 to what is now Tyson's Corner Mall. Old newspaper articles and community records show that a former Ohioan named Omar I. Nigh and his wife, Marie, began operating the peach and apple orchard on his parents' farmland in the 1920s, when Omar left his career as an electrical heating contractor in Washington. After Nigh died in 1955 at the age of 72, his wife continued the business with her son George until 1973.
Omar Nigh left more than just the orchard behind: He was an inventor, credited with inventing an elevator safety mechanism as well as an automobile headlight-dimming switch used in the mid-20th century.
An April 1971 newsletter of the local Pimmit Hills Civic Association announced that a developer would come to the April meeting to discuss development of apartments on some of the orchard's land. The process apparently didn't take long: Myron P. Erkiletian of Erkiletian Construction began developing and that same year, according to Peachtree's management company, The Donaldson Group. Erkiletian, who is also a part owner in 3001 Park Center, also on Route 7 at the intersection with I-395, still owns the property.
Starting in April 1974, the apartments were home to the first Tyson's Corner branch of the Fairfax County Library system. The Tysons-Pimmit Community Library leased 5,000 square feet on the first floor of 2004 Peach Orchard Drive, according to "Books and Beyond" by Nan Netherton. By October 1985, the county had built the nearby Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, which current residents find convenient.
"The single most important thing in this area," said resident Lou Ward, "is that next door is the library." Ward moved into the Peachtree in 1984, at the suggestion of a friend. She edited an association magazine based in Reston until her retirement and has found the library's proximity increasingly important as her eyesight has failed. She listens to books on tape and gets many other materials from the librarians, she said, but she wouldn't be able make use of that material without the help of one particular Peachtree staffer, leasing specialist Lisa Taylor. "The librarians send me reams of information that Lisa reads to me," Ward said.
Taylor is one of three Peachtree employees who have chosen to live on site. With her long experience as resident and employee, she is the community's institutional memory, say resident manager Charlene Pullias and leasing manager Carolyn Dragone.
Significant renovations are almost completed at the property, including new balconies and windows, new white kitchen appliances including microwaves, cabinets with laminate counters and white flooring, new pass-throughs from kitchen to living room and new washers and dryers in each unit.
There's also a change in the outdoor area, because the close proximity of a county park with extensive playground equipment enabled the management to remove its own tot lot and replace it with a number of picnic tables. Residents with children such as Angila Gabsi and daughters Anissa, 5, Somay, 3, and Sana, 14 months, can walk to the park adjacent to the north side of the complex.
Among the residents of varying ages, Carey and one of her roommates say they seem to be the only graduate students. They found their place on www.rent.com.
Though they found a number of candidates, apartments at Peachtree "were a lot more affordable and we just liked the area, living out in the suburbs. It makes it a lot easier to do certain things like grocery shopping," Carey said. "We had looked at a lot of apartments around the area and it just seemed like the best deal."