Apartment hunters chasing an affordable and roomy place to live usually have to go far and wide. But at Berkshire Towers, they may get the wide part without going much farther.
The Silver Spring high-rise complex offers spacious apartments with high ceilings and nine different floor plans. All units but studios have at least two walk-in closets--and when Berkshire Towers general manager Dan Fournier said some closets are almost as big as dens, he isn't overstating.
Berkshire Towers was built in 1965, a time when bigger still meant better in the real estate business. Three buildings form the 1,119-unit complex, which is close to downtown Silver Spring and minutes from Interstate 495.
The complex is tough to miss: The 19-story buildings are among the few high-rises around. That means residents have views of Silver Spring and the District. Some can even see the Washington Monument from their windows.
To Doris Broadnax, the view from her balcony is especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves turn. She said the scenery is a bonus, though, because the size was what attracted her when she moved there nine years ago. "The rooms are so nice and spacious," she said.
Mary Smith, a resident for 30 years, chose to live at Berkshire Towers not only because of the size of her apartment but also because of the easy commute to Washington. Even though Smith now is retired, she said she still considers Berkshire Towers convenient because everything she needs is nearby.
There's a commercial strip within walking distance with a grocery, bank branches, carry-out restaurants and more. Each Berkshire Towers building has its own convenience store.
"People really don't have to go very far to buy anything," Fournier said.
Although the apartments don't have their own laundry facilities, there are a washer and dryer on each floor, as well as a basement laundry room in each building.
Fournier, who has managed the complex for four years, oversees a 50-person staff. Besides standard duties such as maintenance, staffers also provide small services for the tenants, such as scheduling limousines or couriers, getting flowers or movie tickets, or running small errands.
Another amenity at Berkshire Towers is the shuttle bus service. For a dollar, a 22-seat bus takes residents to and from the Wheaton station on Metro's Red Line during rush hours.
Tenants don't need to leave the complex to find recreational activities. There are three tennis courts and a clubroom. At the big swimming pool--it takes about a week and 272,000 gallons of water to fill it--a 1960s-1970s party is scheduled for this month. Management expects to attract more than 300 residents.
In August, it will be time for the "Taste of the Town," featuring food samples from area restaurants. At least one staff member at Berkshire Towers is responsible for organizing community gatherings, such as the monthly children's movie night and the senior citizens' breakfast.
Newton and Henrietta Donaldson, residents of Berkshire Towers for 22 years and regulars at the senior citizens' breakfast, say they remain satisfied with the complex and its management. Any maintenance problem, Newton Donaldson said, is usually solved in a day.
The complex went through major renovations from 1994 to 1997, when Berkshire Realty Company Inc., the management firm, spent about $10 million on the property. The units got new carpeting and painting, new kitchen appliances and cabinets, brass door hardware among other improvements.
Berkshire Towers has a low turnover rate and, for the next couple of months, prospective tenants will have to join a waiting list.
11215 Oak Leaf Dr.
Silver Spring, Md. 20901
* Application fee: $30 each applicant
* Security deposit: $200, refundable
* Lease term: One month to two years
* Utilities: Included
* Amenities: Swimming pool; fitness center; three lighted tennis courts; party room; shuttle bus to Wheaton Metro; 24-hour front desk; concierge; convenience stores
* Parking: Free outdoor lot; garage $30 per month
* Pet policy: Up to two cats; $100 nonrefundable pet fee
APARTMENT SIZE QUANTITY SQUARE FEET MONTHLY RENTAL
STUDIO 213 450 to 475 $640 to $665
1 BR/1 BA 280 700 to 800 $830 to $875
2 BR/2 BA 296 1,000 to 1,050 $965 to $985
3 BR/2 BA 228 1,100 to 1,200 $1,130 to $1,170
CAPTION: Berkshire Towers general manager Dan Fournier near the pool at the three-building high-rise complex. The buildings are among the tallest in the area.