An elderly Parkfairfax resident, who was out for a stroll in yesterday's mild weather along with a friend, had moved into her apartment 10 years ago when her husband died, expecting to stay only temporarily.
But, she said she is a native Virginian and she liked the apartment complex's roomy apartment, moderate rent, and the surrounding wide streets and open park space so much that she is still there. Now she has heard that Parkfairfax is to be converted into condominium units.
"It just makes you sick," she says. "I'm on a fixed income and I'm too old to buy. I couldn't stay here if I had to buy."
Parkfairfax, a 1,684-unit garden apartment complex located in Alexandria on 140 acres of sloping land near Rte. I-95 at the Shirlington Circle exit, has been sold by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Arlen Realty Inc. to International Developers Inc. (IDI).
The apartments were buit in the 1940s as one of the first garden complexes in the nation, according to a spokesman for IDI.
Former tenants of Parkfairfax include two men who later became President - Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford - as well as Lyndon B. Johnson's protege, Robert G. (Bobby) Baker, astronaut Edward H. White Jr., former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and several of former Alexandria City Council members.
Its residents throughout the years have been a unique mix of young families in their first apartment, young professionals, and the elderly. Recently, a large number of foreign-born residents have moved in, many of them Vietnamese.
Parkfairfax attracted tenants who preferred roomy apartments, park space, playgrounds, and a low-density area to the dishwashers and carpeting available in newer high-rises.
A roomy, two-story, two-bedroom apartment is available for $279, including itilities.
"It's just a unique environment," explained Diane Findley, who heads the Parkfairfax Citizens Association.
Rosemary Barnes said the conversion of the rental apartments into condominium units "will certainly wreck our plans."
he Barnes moved into their apartment about a year ago, planning to stay there several more years while they saved money for a house. They now have a 6-month-old daughter.
The Parkfairfax Citizens Association voted last week to oppose the conversion, but since has met with the new ownes president Findley now says she is "fairly optimistic" about the new plans for the complex now.
"I have to be optimistic when I look at the alternatives," Finley said. It could have turned into a slumn, or "the other alternative would have been a high-priced condominium like Fairlington.'"
Quaker Lane from Fairfax P5m [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] The Fairlington Village condominium complex is located across Quaker Lane from Fairfax.
According to the association, IDI plans to convert the complex over a five-year period. Tentatively, prices would be in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. Sources have confirmed that the new owner plans to offer the units to present residents at lower prices than offered to the general public, to encourage them to stay.
A spokesman for IDI said his company will officially release the details of its plans for the "revitalization" of Parkfairfax at meetings on Tuesday. He noted that "preferential programs will be available" to current residents, and that the plan "will be quite different from moving people out onto the streets."
IDI also has purchased the 15-story Parc East apartment building located near Park Fairfax, its spokesman said.
Findley said she is hopeful IDI will respond to the association's fear that Northern Virginia gradually is losing all its moderately priced housing, and that it will improve management of Park Fairfax.
Findley said that Arlen Realty "has just not been responsive to our needs," citing maintenance problems such as broken water pipes, water seepage, stoops that are crumbling, paint and plaster failures and problems with hot water and heat (the apartments have no individual heat control).
Findley said has reason to be optimistic because IDI apparently wants it so that if the people who live there now can afford the rent, they also can afford mortgage payment."
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which built the complex in 1940, sold the dwelling to Arlen Realty Inc. in 1969. Several years ago, Parkfairfax residents successfully fought to keep their area from being developed in high-rise apartments.
One elderly Parkfairfax woman expressed the same feeling as some of her neighbors yesterday when she said she finds it "distressing" that the apartment complex she has lived in for 20 years is to be converted into condominiums.
"It was almost like having your own little house," she said of her apartment. "We plant our own flowers in the front yard and we have our own front door."
She and her husband, who is retired haven't yet decided what they will do. They, and others, are anxiously awaiting information about the proposed conversion. But she added. "At this stage in life you don't feel like buying property."