Alan Webber, 59, had hoped the town house he shares with his wife Marianna in the Falkland complex in Silver Spring would be, as he said, "the end of the road" -- a place where they could live comfortably all their lives.
Yesterday, however, the Webbers were among 25 tenants of the sprawling, 485-unit complex at 16th Street and East-West Highway who rallied on behalf of their stately brick apartments and town houses, which the owners want to tear down and replace with high-rise office buildings.
The tenants are fighting to gain historic landmark status for the 1938 complex -- and thereby preserve it -- because of what they say is its architectural and cultural signficance. Tuesday night the County Council meets to consider their arguments and those of the Blair family, builders and owners of the Falkland.
Designed by architect Louis Justement, the Falkland was the first apartment complex constructed in Maryland with Federal Housing Administration financing. Residents say it is like a small village, with its inner courtyards of tall trees, gardens and a stream that courses through a deep ravine.
"We're an oasis surrounded by concrete, that's what we are," said Saleta Longley, a resident of more than 25 years.
The tenants have the support of the county historical commission, but the county planning staff has sided with the Blairs. Preparing for Tuesday's hearing yesterday, the tenants marched around the complex, chanting and carrying signs that said "Save the Falkland."
What to do with the Falkland site has been an issue for planners, tenants and owners for 15 years. Although the property was rezoned from residential to commercial to clear the way for redevelopment, the tenants have persisted in their opposition. Neither William D. Blair Jr., the principal owner, nor his attorney could be reached yesterday for comment.
Sharon Sherill, president of the tenants association, said her organization's support goes beyond the 30 percent of the 1,200 residents who actually belong. "Not everybody wants to live in a Bethesda, not everybody wants to live in a Rockville," she said.
"Of course, now we're living with a sword over our heads," said Christine Robinson, who moved into her Falkland town house in 1939 and with her husband, who died last year, raised a family there.
"He's sort of here still," she said. "That's why I want to stay here. It's always been a lovely, homey place. I don't want to move, but I'm practical, realistic. If I were a corporation, I'd want to get rid of it and make some money."