After a year at the Navy base in Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, Jordan Thomas arrived in Washington wanting to meet new people. It couldn't have been easier: He didn't even have to leave his apartment building.

The friendly atmosphere of Arlington Courthouse Place, a 20-floor rental building in Arlington, made the difference in Thomas's social life. He recently went camping with a next-door neighbor, and every now and then he gets together with other residents to go to coffeehouses or bars in the area.

Thomas, who moved to Courthouse Place in December, met his neighbors at the gym, at the building's pool parties and happy hours and at the continental breakfasts that have become a Sunday tradition.

"It's a very friendly group of folks," he said. In fact, Thomas said Courthouse Place is the friendliest building he has ever lived in. Before his tour in Diego Garcia, Thomas said he lived in Northwest Washington, in a building near the National Cathedral, but people there kept more to themselves. "Here there's always something going on," he said.

The social activities planned for this summer include a Fourth of July party and a pool party in August.

Courthouse Place's cordial ambience also has influenced the building's staff. "Every day here ends on a happy note," said property manager Lynn Evans, who oversees the 16-member staff. "Everybody is very much team-spirited."

Evans lives in the building, which she said is better for both her and the tenants because she is more aware of what goes on. "You are just ahead of the game," she said.

Nice touches are part of everyday life at Courthouse Place. New tenants receive welcome baskets containing cookies, bottled water, popcorn and a brass key ring, as well as a coupon for a free pizza and two movie tickets. And the guest services staff is constantly working on finding new ways to welcome renters.

Other attractive aspects of Courthouse Place are apparent to prospective tenants on sight. The building has 22 floor plans and features a full-size washer and dryer in each unit, gas range and walk-in closets. Most apartments have a balcony or a patio, and some have a gas fireplace.

The U-shaped building is also brand new; its first residents moved in in December. "People just love the fact that they are the first tenants," said leasing consultant Ben Jellison.

The building is already 95 percent leased, but construction teams are still working on putting the finishing touches on the 20th floor, which will be ready for leasing next Friday. Courthouse Place is managed by Charles E. Smith Residential Realty Inc. of Arlington.

For marketing consultant Kim Kasmeier, one secret to Courthouse Place's success is that most residents wanted to be close to the District--but not too close. "You get a more relaxed feeling once you come over to the building," she said.

The building's location was a key part of Jim Jenkins's decision when he was apartment-hunting. "I like being able to be in Washington in minutes but not living in it," he said. The liveliness of Georgetown is a short drive away, and the building is adjacent to young and spirited Clarendon. The neighborhood around Courthouse Road and Wilson Boulevard is dotted with retail stores, Vietnamese and other restaurants, brew pubs and the AMC Courthouse movie theaters.

Downtown Washington is also close by, as are Interstate 66, Route 50, George Washington Memorial Parkway and Reagan National Airport. And only a five-minute walk away is the Court House stop on Metro's Orange Line.

Convenience attracted Carol Lindamood, who moved in March from Alexandria to be closer to her job, just across the street from the building. She expected to get rid of her commute and live in a crisp, clean apartment, but at the Courthouse she got a bonus: While traffic on King Street was all she heard at her old place, now she listens to the soothing sound of the split-level cascading swimming pool in the private courtyard near her patio.

Although most Courthouse Place residents are professionals in their thirties to late forties, some older tenants also call it home.

For Ann Parker, who in January sold the Arlington house where she and her husband, Andrew, had lived for 20 years, moving meant a big lifestyle change.

At her apartment, she doesn't have to worry about mowing the lawn or watering outdoor plants anymore, but she still gets a homey feeling from the fireplace and the gas range she's used to.

"There is little hassle," she said. "We are having fun living here."

ARLINGTON COURTHOUSE PLACE

1320 N. Veitch St.

Arlington, Va. 22201

703-816-8840

* Application fee: $35 each applicant

* Security deposit: None; $300 nonrefundable moving fee

* Lease term: Six months to one year

* Utilities: Not included

* Amenities: Swimming pool; whirlpool; sauna; lockers; fitness center; business center with free Internet access; party room with full kitchen; guest suite; bike storage.

* Parking: Free indoor parking for first car

* Pet policy: Cats only; $300 nonrefundable pet fee

APARTMENT SIZE QUANTITY SQUARE FEET MONTHLY RENTAL

STUDIO 2 525 $940

1BR/1BA 329 615 to 800 $1,080 to $1,430

1 BR/1 1/2 BA/DEN 79 855 to 950 $1,340 to $1,540

2 BR/2 BA 154 1,030 to 1,300 $1,630 to $2,220

CAPTION: The lobby of 20-story Arlington Courthouse Place is only one of many meeting places for tenants and their guests, along with a pool, a fitness center and a party room, not to mention nearby restaurants and movie theaters. A tenant who moved in last December calls the building the friendliest he has ever lived in.