Almedia Sinkfield, 91, and Josh Brekenfeld, 24, have never met, but they both like city life at a relatively affordable price. As residents of the Park Hill apartments, just off 16th Street NW in the District's Mount Pleasant neighborhood, they each have an efficiency apartment for less than $890 a month.
Room sizes and the atmosphere at this five-story, rent-controlled building also get kudos.
Sinkfield, who worked for 47 years at what's now the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, moved to Park Hill in 1964. "I was sold on the lobby," she said. "I hadn't even seen my apartment yet."
Two large interior lighted white columns flank a low, wide stairway -- a setting reminiscent of an old-fashioned movie theater's lobby. A perimeter of plaster medallions bordering the ceiling enhances the setting.
When Sinkfield first moved in, there was a 24-hour switchboard. Mail was handed to each resident as they stopped by, and visitors were announced from the lobby.
Now, visitors are admitted via a controlled-access entrance and mailboxes have been installed, but Sinkfield said the personal touch is still there. The front desk is staffed until midnight on weeknights and 3 a.m. on weekends, with a 24-hour answering service filling in the gaps. Residents are greeted by name as they come and go. "The maintenance people inquire if they don't see me for a day," Sinkfield said.
Sinkfield has had the same efficiency apartment for four decades. "I didn't want my living room to look like a bedroom," she said, so she bought a queen-size sofa bed and added a couple of easy chairs and a TV set. She keeps her dresser and bureau in the walk-in closet. New blinds and periodic paint jobs are the only changes made to her unit over the years, although windows were replaced throughout the building two years ago. "It's just fine," she said.
Apartments are renovated as needed. Brekenfeld, a newcomer to Park Hill, has a remodeled efficiency with upgrades including new cabinets and kitchen fixtures. His unit, like Sinkfield's, has a cozy dining nook and two roomy closets.
Brekenfeld, a Senate staffer, wasted no time showing off his apartment. He held a housewarming party shortly after moving in three months ago, inviting neighbors on his floor as well as friends from outside the building. One of his guests has since moved to Park Hill, netting Brekenfeld a $100 referral bonus.
Much of Park Hill's allure is its location. "I just love Mount Pleasant," Brekenfeld said, noting the abundance of nightlife in the community and in nearby Adams Morgan.
Jon Campos, 32, a management consultant and Park Hill resident, said: "I wanted an area that was more urban than suburban."
It's hard to imagine anything you would need that's not within walking distance. A one-block stroll east, past neatly maintained rowhouses, leads to neighborhood favorite Heller's Bakery and an old-fashioned hardware store. Sharing the block with these staples of the community are several restaurants ranging from those with an international flavor offering reasonably priced comfort food to a self-described "revolutionary cuisine" cafe.
A Saturday farmer's market is nearby and within three blocks, there are a CVS, a Safeway and a new Giant.
For excursions beyond the neighborhood, the 16th Street buses are convenient, Brekenfeld said. The Columbia Heights Metro station is about a five-minute walk.
Elma Ross, a retired health department statistician, has lived in Park Hill since 1970. "There is so much closeness to buses on 14th and 16th streets and on Mount Pleasant [Street], that if one run is tied up, you just go to another," Ross said.
Park Hill, built in 1941, is owned and operated by Bethesda-based Lenkin Co. Management Inc., a family-owned business that operates seven rental high-rises in Northwest Washington. Each has a retro appearance, said Carol Smith, Lenkin's property manager.
Park Hill's resident manager, Valerie Givens, started in the building 37 years ago as a switchboard operator. Maintenance supervisor Andre Braxton has been with the property for 10 years and lives on site.
Though Park Hill's hallways, laundry room and lobby are spotless, it is a 65-year-old building and can show its age. The elevator system was overhauled this year.
There are 23 underground parking spaces for an extra fee, and those tend to stay rented, Givens said. Residents with cars who don't have a parking spaces are eligible for D.C. residential parking permits. Many, like Brekenfeld and Sinkfield, find little need for a car.
They also do without a fitness center, swimming pool or other modern apartment amenities. But both tenants say the trade-off is worth it. "I have no regrets," Sinkfield said.
"Friends pay $1,500 or more [a month] for what I have here," Brekenfeld said.