Some apartment-seekers may think an affordable rent in Arlington is as good as it gets. But it turns out that the Marbella Apartments go that standard one better: The Marbella community is conveniently located, too.

Only minutes from Interstate 395 and Route 50 and within walking distance of the Court House Metro station, the 134-unit low-rise complex offers affordable housing as well as market-rate apartments. In addition, all the apartments at the Marbella recently were renovated.

Arthur Colpitt, a resident of three years, has reason to be happy about the renovations. He remembers the couple of summers when he slept in the living room, the only room with air conditioning. And then there were the winters when he and his neighbors opened windows because the old steam heater would pump out too much heat.

The former management team's philosophy was "to do the minimum and let the next guy worry about it," Colpitt said. The new management, on the other hand, is not only "very responsive" to problems but anticipates them, he said.

Renovations at the Marbella went beyond improving the central heating and adding air conditioning and a new management team: Each unit got new kitchen appliances, cabinets and counter tops; wall-to-wall carpeting; insulated windows; and new bathroom equipment and plumbing, among other items. The complex's 15 buildings got controlled access, and nine of them got laundry rooms.

Property manager Vilma Pradier remembers the end of the renovation process fondly. The first day residents were to move to the redone units, several excited people trashed their old furniture--they didn't want to fill their new apartments with old stuff. By the end of the day, Pradier was surprised by the number of items that had been thrown out, but she wasn't surprised by the number of happy residents.

According to the developer, Silverwood and Associates, remodeling the Marbella cost about $28,000 per apartment. The Virginia Housing Development Authority and the Arlington County Office of Development helped fund the renovation to help provide affordable housing and diversity in the Arlington Court House area, which lately has filled up with upscale high-rise apartment complexes and expensive town houses.

"We strongly support those points of diversity in our community," said Wayne Rhodes, director of the county Office of Development. "Diversity has many benefits--it brings vitality and excitement into the community."

The state agency determined the rent and income limits for the Marbella's affordable units. A single person applying for a one-bedroom apartment must make from $19,200 to 33,060 a year. Two people in a two-bedroom have to make from $22,560 to $37,800, and a family of three in a three-bedroom must make from $31,000 to $42,480. There are several market-priced units with higher income limits.

"It's a multicultured neighborhood, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy it," Colpitt said. But rent is another reason. Elsewhere, he said, "for $1,000 you still wouldn't get what I have."

Rebecca Willman, who works for a nonprofit organization in Arlington and just relocated from Florida in July, also did the math and, after talking to friends, is convinced she got the best deal possible. For a smaller apartment in the same neighborhood, she said, people pay from $160 to $300 more than she pays for her one-bedroom at the Marbella. "Price and space were just best in this one," she said.

As for the apartment itself, Willman especially enjoys the fact that her appliances are brand-new.

"I was very lucky to find" the Marbella, said Raynard Freidig, a federal worker who moved into the complex a little more than a month ago. Beyond the affordable rent, he also praised his apartment for its quietness. Constructed from 1942 to 1947, the buildings have thick brick walls, which may account for the silence, Freidig surmised.

Location was the most important reason Peter Kiss and Anita Dudas chose the Marbella apartments. But its fresh start counted, too. The couple came from Hungary in January and had a bad experience with roaches in their first Arlington rental property. Now they're enjoying their affordable--and bug-free--apartment, which is also closer to Dudas's English classes and Kiss's work as a journalist in Rosslyn.

For Jason Enia, recently arrived from Ohio, looking for an apartment in the Washington area wasn't as bad as he had feared. The Marbella was one of the first communities he visited, and its price and location were persuasive.

Like the other residents interviewed, Enia, a legal assistant in the District, likes being near the Metro, which he uses to get to work. And he likes the nearby bike trails. On a recent weekend, the newcomer knocked a few landmarks off his must-see list, bicycling over to Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial. Key Bridge and Georgetown look to be next on the list.

"I will explore the area," he promised.


1301 N. Queen St.

Arlington, Va. 22209


* APPLICATION FEE: $25 each applicant

* SECURITY DEPOSIT: Half of one month's rent, refundable

* LEASE TERM: Six months to one year

* UTILITIES: Electric not included

* AMENITIES: Community room; 24-hour maintenance service; free fax and copier service at the rental office

* PARKING: Free outdoor lot

* PET POLICY: No pets


EFFICIENCY 2 475 $600

1BR/1BA 106 565 550 to 825*

2 BR/1BA 14 835 675 to 1,025*

2BR/2BA 6 N/A 675 to 1,025*

3BR/1BA 6 1,012 905 to 1,110*

* Rent depends on income

CAPTION: (This map was not available)