To live in a garden-style apartment means you always have to go back and forth--or worse, up and down--to get in or out of the house, right?

The answer is not always, if the option is Park Station at Olde Towne Gaithersburg. There, at each floor, covered ramps link the building's halls to a 5 1/2-level garage right in the middle of the complex. All car owners have to do to get directly to their home is to park.

The garage adds convenience for the residents, but it also represented the innovative solution to a planning puzzle. Once finished next March, Park Station will encompass eight low-rise buildings on less than seven acres of land--insufficient space if the usual spread-out parking-lot layout had been used.

But the new 386-unit complex also offers other pleasant features for prospective tenants, such as nine-foot ceilings, a full-size washer and dryer in each apartment, gas-fueled heat and hot water and 20 floor plans to choose from. Most units have walk-in closets and either a balcony or a patio; in addition, some have gas fireplaces, triple windows and vaulted ceilings.

It was the chance to have an apartment with a loft that attracted Adrian Liebel, who recently relocated from Ohio to start a job at a nearby technology company. In fact, some one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments at Park Station offer spacious lofts, big enough to serve as a bedroom. Three-bedroom apartments won't be available until December, said property manager Jan Cummings.

Liebel found Park Station through an Internet search while still in Ohio, but once he moved, he discovered another plus of his new apartment: the location. He enjoys the fact that he is not in a crowded place, but not isolated either.

Park Station is within walking distance of Lakeforest Mall and the MARC train station, as well as a short drive from Interstate 270, Route 355 and the Shady Grove station on Metro's Red Line.

In addition, as Liebel has found out, Olde Towne Gaithersburg makes for an enjoyable walk--a "rocking distance" from Park Station, as resident Darci Horne put it. She and her husband, Chris, recently relocated to Gaithersburg from South Carolina on a career move for her, and the couple has started to walk around Olde Towne to get to know the area. "It is a neat place, so close to everything," she said.

In fact, the stakes are high for the City of Gaithersburg, which invested in Park Station and also donated some land to help make parking easier, said Tony Tomasello, the city's director of economic development. Park Station is part of an effort to revive the Olde Towne district. The apartments replaced an old 126-unit apartment complex that was "easily the worst housing in the city," he said.

The city, as well as private companies such as Fannie Mae, pitched in, but the complex is an initiative of the Magruder Cos., a developer based in Gaithersburg, and the Dolben Company Inc., a real estate firm based in Boston. Both companies manage Park Station.

Olde Towne's revitalization is a priority for Gaithersburg, Tomasello said, and to have more people living downtown is a perfect way to help accomplish it, he added.

It's not only out-of-towners who want to be in on Olde Towne's revitalization. Joanne Mann, a longtime Montgomery County resident, rediscovered the district and was pleasantly surprised by it. The location that she once knew as a "very bad area" turned into "a gorgeous place," she said, a very desirable location for her and her boyfriend, Larry Mead.

For the couple, Park Station represented a fresh start. They moved to a nearby complex about five months ago but went through a "nightmare" of maintenance problems. Visiting a house for sale in the area, Mead spotted the new development under construction and that same afternoon started looking for information.

Soon enough Mead and Mann were hooked on the high ceilings, the loft and the location of their apartment-to-be. They checked on their place every week, sometimes bringing family members along to take a look. "It was almost like watching our own home being built," Mann said.

One recent morning, they finally moved in: They had to wait for the building inspector to finish before they could get their keys. Shortly after that, they were getting to know their new neighbors, Darci and Chris Horne, and enjoying a summer day by the pool.

In their two-bedroom-and-loft unit overlooking the one-acre, city-owned Congressional Gardens, "we feel like we are in a town house," Mann said.

PARK STATION

101 Park Ave.

Gaithersburg, Md. 20877

301-987-7600

* Application fee: $35

* Security deposit: $300, refundable

* Lease term: One year

* Utilities: Water and sewer included

* Amenities: Swimming pool; fitness room; pool table; clubhouse

* Parking: Free garage parking

* Pet policy: Cats only; $300 deposit, half refundable, plus $20 monthly fee

APARTMENT SIZE

QUANTITY

SQUARE FEET

MONTHLY RENTAL

1 BR/1BA

107

686 to 768

$825 to $905

1 BR/1BA/LOFT

26

906

1,055

2 BR/2BA

194

928 to 1,561

1,050 to 1,300

2 BR/2 BA/LOFT

50

1,075 to 1,280

1,230 to 1,280

3BR/2BA

9

1,277

1,300