The Winkler Botanical Preserve in Alexandria comprises 43 acres, and the land underlying Millbrook Apartments, built in 1996 by Mark Winkler Cos., was not part of the preserve, which was established in 1979. An article in last Saturday's Oct. 16 Apartments section incorrectly reported the size of the preserve and what land the apartments were built on. (Published 10/23/1999)

Connie Cain has always been an early riser, but at the Millbrook at Mark Center, her apartment community, she has an extra reason to be up around 5:30 each morning to welcome the new day: Her garden-style apartment overlooks the Winkler Botanical Preserve, a wooded area that is home to many songbirds that, like her, wake to greet the dawn.

"It's wonderful to wake up in the morning and hear the birds singing," Cain said. "It's just so peaceful."

Like Cain and her husband, Clarence, who recently moved from Texas, residents at the Millbrook get plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. But they also get to enjoy city living. After all, the complex may be next to the preserve, but it's also near Interstate 395, the Capital Beltway and Alexandria's Old Town.

The Winkler preserve is a 44-acre area that is home to a variety of plants (hence all those birds), plus walking and jogging trails, a waterfall and a pond, among other features. The Millbrook's construction on former preserve land in 1996 was the source of some controversy.

The Mark Center, a commercial and residential development of which the Millbrook is part, is the result of a plan made about 60 years ago by Mark Winkler, then the head of the family firm, who died in 1970. The 1938 purchase of 423 acres was developed following a "perimeter plan" encircling the preserve. Development began in earnest in 1978, and the preserve was 83 acres of woodland until 1996, when the Millbrook was begun. The Winkler family still provides the operating funds for the preserve.

The woodland is a big selling point for the Millbrook, but the community's well-kept grounds also attracted several tenants.

It was the landscaping that first caught the attention of Army Col. Richard Schwark, but he soon discovered other reasons to enjoy his two-bedroom unit, such as the gas fireplace in his living room, the vaulted ceilings, the large balcony and the view of the pool. And his unit, like all the apartments at the Millbrook, has a gas range--"much better than electric," said this hobby cook, who specializes in German and northern Italian food. The kitchen also has lots of counter space.

The complex's security ranked high when Draper Bowne was looking for an apartment in the Washington area a little over a year ago. It wasn't only the controlled access that made him feel more safe, but also the fact that every apartment has its own alarm system, smoke detectors and sprinklers. With his 19-year-old daughter, Melissa, living with him, safety is very important, he said.

For the Bownes, location was also important. Bowne, a retired Army sergeant major, got a job just across the street from the complex, and his daughter's classes at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College are a very short drive away.

For those who don't work or study that close by, the Millbrook offers a free shuttle bus to the Pentagon station on Metro's Blue and Yellow lines. The shuttle runs Monday through Friday during rush hours and serves about 100 residents daily, said resident manager Jennifer Brandt-Rucker. And on the first of every month, management staff members offer breakfast to tenants boarding the shuttle, she said.

Coffee, doughnuts and cookies are not the only unusual amenities at the Millbrook. In addition to taking in packages that arrive when residents aren't home, employees feed cats and water plants for free when apartment dwellers are away, Brandt-Rucker said.

Mark Winkler Co. manages about 5,400 units in the Washington area. The company has just started construction of the Millbrook's newest section, which will be rental town houses. The town houses are scheduled to be ready by next spring, and the new section will add more amenities to the complex, including a meeting room and basketball and racquetball courts.

For now, residents have access to a 24-hour fitness center, a hot tub and a volleyball court. But the Millbrook also offers some features people may not expect in a garden-style community. There are elevators in each building and garage parking in most of them. For Doug Barroga, a Jeep owner, that last feature comes in handy, especially with winter coming up, he said.

The Millbrook is three years old, and several current tenants were among the first renters. For Heather Van den Broek, it seemed very important to be the first tenants at the first apartment she and her husband, Brian, rented as a married couple. "You kind of feel you just bought a new house, even though you are renting," she said.

Another couple also started their married life at the Millbrook: Paul and Molly Geary, who married in July and moved from Charlottesville for job opportunities in the Washington area. To them, the complex was by far the cleanest and the most pleasant they found. In addition, "the management really worked with us," Molly Geary said. "People are just very friendly."

The Gearys' apartment overlooks the nature preserve, and the quiet is broken only by bird song.

"I keep the windows open when the weather is nice in order to hear the soothing wind," Molly Geary said.

THE MILLBROOK AT MARK CENTER

1459 N. Beauregard St.

Alexandria, Va. 22311

703-578-7800

* Application fee: $35

* Security deposit: $250, refundable; $150 move-in fee, nonrefundable

* Lease term: One year; short-term options available

* Utilities: Electric not included

* Amenities: Clubhouse; storage room; swimming pool; whirlpool; fitness center; volleyball court; free shuttle to Pentagon Metro; 24-maintenance service

* Parking: Free outdoor lot; indoor parking, $40 to $60 a month

* Pet policy: Cats only ($250 nonrefundable pet fee)

APARTMENT SIZE QUANTITY SQUARE FEET MONTHLY RENTAL

1BR/1BA 166 707 to 764 $1,005 to $1,115

1BR/1BA/DEN 50 916 $1,225 to $1,265

1BR/1BA/LOFT 28 941 $1,260 to $1,280

2 BR/2BA 138 984 to 1,080 $1,285 to $1,430

3BR/2BA 24 1,257 $1,685 to $1,785