Nobody calls Rosslyn quaint -- not even those who call it home.

"There are too many buildings, and it's too congested," said Mary Reno, a resident in one of the many garden apartments interspersed with the architecturally overpowering high-rises of Rosslyn.

The word "close-knit," a common adjective that people use for other neighborhoods, is not one that comes to residents' tongues when asked about Rosslyn characteristics.

People "just come and go," said Reno, who added that despite living in Rosslyn off and on for 20 years, "I don't know anybody here."

In a recent Arlington County survey of Rosslyn workers and residents, when asked which streets in Rosslyn are most pleasant to walk on, more than 80 percent answered "none."

Does this mean that Rosslynites are unhappy living in an area that has been derided as Condo Canyon, Concrete City and Gridlock City? Not at all.

Rosslyn, which is just across the Potomac River from Georgetown and has its own Metro stop, suits the lifestyle of many people who value it, above all, for its convenience.

"I wanted to stay in Virginia, but I wanted some in-city convenience," said Jim Edwards, who moved into the Belvedere luxury condominium at 1600 N. Oak St. a couple of years ago.

It takes Edwards 15 minutes each day to get to his job at the Department of Veterans Affairs by Metro.

"It's safe, and it's serene," he said, even if the walk back from Metro each night is "kind of eerie" because so many of the towering office buildings are abandoned after dark.

People at the condo do socialize with each other, though Rosslyn as a whole, Edwards acknowledged, "is hard to characterize as a neighborhood."

Bruce Rieder, another Belvedere resident, cited three reasons he moved there in 1987: "location, location, location."

Since then, however, he said he has seen a growing sense of place and neighborhood, contrary to Rosslyn's sterile image. When a fire forced a family out of a garden apartment right before Christmas, one condo owner sent around a notice and collected donations.

"There is no glue yet that holds it together," including no neighborhood association to organize the area and hold block parties, Rieder said. "The neighborhood identity is not quite there yet, but it is growing."

The business and commercial aspects of Rosslyn still dominate both its image as well as planning for the area, and during the day residents are outnumbered by more than 3 to 1 by the 36,690 people who work there.

Rosslyn's 11,858 residents are predominantly young and single, with more than 40 percent in their 20s, according to Arlington County figures. About 62 percent live alone. The area has few single-family homes and, not coincidentally, few children.

A number of two-story brick homes have been converted into rental units. Single-family homes along a horse-shoe-shaped block of Colonial Terrace have been closed and have sprouted "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing" signs as they wait to be replaced with a town house development.

In all of 1989, there were only nine sales of single-family homes in the Zip code area (22209) that encompasses Rosslyn, with a median price of $280,000. Condo sales took a steep drop from 639 in 1988 to 222 in 1989, but the median price of those condos rose from $140,000 to $163,000.

Rosslyn has undergone transformations before and is on the verge of another attempt at redesign. Once a seedy area of warehouses, lumberyards and pawn shops, Rosslyn was redeveloped with an orgy of office building in the early 1960s.

In 1964 it was dubbed "Cinderella City" in a Washington Star article hailing the new gleaming skyscraper-filled area as a "showcase."

But the fascination with the new Northern Virginia skyline was short-lived, and in the 1970s Rosslyn, along with Crystal City, became synonymous around Washington with development run amok.

The 1980s saw attempts to make the mini-city greener by day and brighter by night, with tiny niches of parkland added and concerted efforts to lure nightspots, stores and restaurants that would stay open at night.

Residents today say they have seen a transition, though perhaps not as quickly as some had hoped.

"When I walk across the {Key} bridge into Georgetown, now I see an awful lot of people coming the other way from the District over here," said Ralph W. Cummings Jr., who both works and lives in Rosslyn.

A new urban design is in the works and should be ready by the end of the year, said Thomas C. Parker, Arlington's director of economic development.

While the plan will focus on the business and commercial district, a key element will be linkages with the residential areas, he said.

While high-rise apartment buildings and office buildings have continued to spring up throughout Rosslyn, part of the county's goal is to preserve as many of the current low-rise and garden apartment complexes as possible, Parker said.

Still, some clearly are destined to be redeveloped at higher densities, he added.

While the county's recent survey found that the No. 1 improvement desired by those in the area was the seemingly simple addition of trees, residents generally seem to accept the urban atmosphere as the price of living in a spot where they can take Metro to work and walk to Georgetown.

"I like trees and animals, but that {high-rise density} is what you get close to a big city like Washington," said Cummings, who works at the Agency for International Development in Rosslyn.

"I'm not sure {Rosslyn} is where you want to live 30 years of your life, but while you're here, it has a lot of advantages," Cummings added.