The staff at Oakwood garden apartments in Alexandria used to be able to tell "the type" a mile away.

He would sign the move-in forms, pay his security deposit and pick up his parking sticker. He would walk around for a few minutes, peering nervously down corridors.

"And then," says activities director Betty Wertz, "when no one else was around, he would sidle up to the front desk and ask when the orgy in the jacuzzi was going to start."

But at Oakwood, the facts have changed, even if the swinging singles image hasn't.

"We've become older and more stable," said Robert Summers Jr., Oakwood's manager. "We have a better class of people. I guess you could say we've become a well-rounded neighborhood."

When it opened in 1972, this three-story brick collection of 1,524 one- and two-bedroom apartments was the first no-lease-required complex in Northern Virginia. It also was one of the earliest complexes in Condo Canyon -- the sprawling collection of apartments and condominiums near the Duke Street exit of I-395.

Oakwood has always been restricted to tenants 18 years older and over, and it still is. But the complex now draws as many married couples and business groups as it does swingers.

In many ways, Oakwood is almost like nearby suburban neighborhoods, and residents are doing many of the things any neighbors would do. They accept packages from United Parcel Services for one another. They help with chores. They borrow and lend sugar. They car-pool.

This year, for the first time in the memories of veteran Oakwooders, there are precinct chairmen for the Republican and Democratic parties. And this past summer, Betty Wertz had to start a tennis tournament for those 50 and over.

Where Oakwood used to draw soldiers, airline employes and transient government workers almost exclusively, during the past six months it has been home to:

The cast of "A Chorus Line," which played the Kennedy Center for two months, and which delighted Oakwood residents by staging jam sessions most afternoons at the piano in the community room.

A delegation of air safety experts, brought to Washington as part of the investigation of last year's DC-10 crash in Chicago.

A businessman about to transfer from Philadelphia who needed a place to live for two months and didn't want to get tied up by a lease.

A group of Salvation Army volunteers who came to the area to raise money during the Christmas season and then returned to their homes around the country.

A Foreign Service family just back from overseas, whose tenants had not yet moved from the family's home in Bethesda.

A young couple who had sold their old house in Arlington and hadn't yet closed on the new one in Fairfax County.

And, memorably to Oakwood veterans, about 20 of last winter's protesting farmers.

For rents that range from $395 to $590 a month, Oakwood residents get airy apartments that always have fresh paint and new locks. If a tenant wants, silverware, linens and even potted palms can be rented.

Tenants also have free use of eight floodlit tennis courts, exercise facilities, two swimming pools, a billiards room, a wide-screen TV room and barbecue pits.

For small fees, Wertz arranges classes in everything from aerobics to backgammon, and she says she often has waiting lists. Attendance is excellent at the disco dance and happy hour every Tuesday, the social dance every Friday and the free brunch every Sunday -- as well as at occasional special events.

What clinched Oakwood's early reputation as "swinging singles central" was the fact that it was built by R&B Enterprises, a California company that was well-known in the Los Angeles area for its adults-only apartment developments -- and some of the adults-only games the tenants were said to play. Thus, Oakwood's reputation was assured before the first brick was in place.

Part of the reputation was probably even accurate.

"We used to have great parties, great happy hours here," says Tome Malone, an airline ticket agent who has lived at the complex since it opened.

Says another woman who has lived at Oakwood for seven years: "It wasn't like bed-hopping every night. But if you wanted to find a bed to hop into, you could."

And today?

"Today, this is a very friendly place," says Suzanne Salinger, a 28-year-old reservations agent for Delta Airlines who has lived at Oakwood for a year. "You get into what you want to get into.

"But I don't perceive it as a swinging singles place. It's kind of hard to swing when the person you want to swing with might be gone in three days."

Such transience is the one aspect of Oakwood that hasn't changed.

Because no lease is required, about 16 percent of the development's population turns over every month. According to Summers, the average length of stay is three months.

The joke among the staff is that they'd like to own stock in the company that makes Oakwood's plastic mail box nameplates.

But that transience also may cause some problems at Oakwood. State officials, for instance, say they are considering classifying Oakwood as a hotel, which would allow the state to more than double the taxes on the complex. If the state goes through with the reclassification, the City of Alexandria would be able to tax the complex at a much higher property tax rate. Oakwood officials said their attorneys had advised them not to comment on the proposal.

But as the type of resident has changed, so has the turnover at the apartment complex. More than half of the residents have been on board at least a year. Thus, more and more, two Oakwoods seem to be developing: the revolving-door population that had always been the core of the complex, and established Washingtonians who can't find a place to live that they like-better.

"A nice one-bedroom somewhere else would cost me anywhere from $325 a month up," says Mark Wright, 30. "For another $85, I get all the amenities here. If I want to, I can pump some iron in the weight room for a while, then go sit in the jacuzzi for a while. Where else can you do that unless you live in a country club?"

For Michelle Rodin, a 27-year-old California who moved to the area last year, Oakwood "meant privacy, not all the swinging you heard about back in California. I enjoy knowing that I can see and hear people here in the social room if I want to. But I can have quiet here, too, if I want it. You can't find quiet in a lot of apartments."

Suzanne Salinger thinks Oakwood's swinging reputation will soon be doomed forever -- by Oakwood's residents.

"There's a certain population of really lonely people here, looking for something, hoping to become swinging people, and it just isn't going to happen," she said.

But, adds Salinger, "I think some of the people here are as warm as can be. This is really a community."