A Starter HOME at Best by “V”: Apartment Rentals in Alexandria Virginia

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In 1981, when I first moved to the DC Metro area for my first job after law school, I rented at a strictly singles garden style complex in the West End of Alexandria called Oakwood Apartments. No pets, no kids, my now ex-husband lived in the same building at the opposite end of my floor.

Twenty five years later, newly divorced with just two weeks notice to evacuate my home of almost twenty years, I moved back, on the theory that I knew the complex and neighborhood, and that cut and square footage of the apartments could easily hold all of my stuff which I had been given little to no time to sort through.

I leased a one bedroom unit with a full size stackable washer and dryer, intending to call the place “home.” The complex, recently under new ownership from Chicago, had just been rechristened EOS 21, and in the almost two years that I resided there, I found not a “dawn” for a new life, as the updated moniker suggests, but a “marriage” almost as difficult as the one I had just left, due to structural decline, managerial snafus and maintenance shortcomings. Put simply, in the words of Sarah Palin, “lipstick on a pig.”

First, let me say, that the apartments are spacious and cut fairly cleanly and straight, so that a tenant has a multitude of options in configuring a unit. The one exception is the placement of the chandelier light fixture in an area clearly meant for dining, but the attached fan will be welcome when the building boiler (not unit controlled) A/C system invariably conks out or just isn’t turned on by management soon enough for tenant comfort. A breakfast bar outlines the sink area of the open, eat in kitchen, which does not have a microwave. And take note to filter your tap water if you drink it, because there is noticeable lead in the pipes.

There is ample in apartment storage space – two large, sliding door closets in the bedroom (they tend to come off their runners), and a similar sized accordion door combination hall closet/shelf space adjacent to the entrance to the unit, with a generous linen closet near the bathroom. The kitchen has ample and reachable cupboard and counter space, additional room above the former, and a double sink. One of three phone jacks is located in this area, the other two being in the bedroom and living room respectively, for renters in this economy who may have to revert to use of land lines.

The bathroom itself is small and contains only the tub/shower and toilet. It is directly adjacent to a sink/vanity area with a small, mirrored chest, a lengthy, well lit and mirrored bathroom bar, and ample drawer and under the sink cabinet space. I had a full size stackable washer/dryer in my unit which was stylishly enclosed in a closet in the corner of the bedroom. “Urban units” have an “all in one washer/dryer,” which have the anecdotical reputation of not having the capacity to do large loads and taking forever to dry and not doing so wrinkle free.

These apartments were built solid like vaults, cement blocks between all floors and 70’s popcorn ceilings. The carpeting and padding are thick, so you will never hear the noisiest of neighbors in your unit. All that insulation, however, also makes them hot – you rarely have to put on heat (and all utilities are included in the rent every month) in the Winter – and unbearable in the Spring and Summer when the A/C is off or not working, and attractive to bugs, since the crevices in the apartments have not been caulked. I personally did not have an infestation problem, but many of my neighbors did, irrespective of cleanliness. I was on the fourth of five floors, one unit down from the central elevator, which by the way, for the noise sensitive, loudly announces the floors whenever the doors open.

The ventilation in the middle of the buildings has been disabled since my last stay, making the immediately adjacent units, which are also in the high traffic area, attractive to roaches. If you rent here, avoid apartments near the elevator, unless you want to share with creatures besides dogs, cats and children. Ditto if you want to maximize your peace and quiet.

The only amenity I really used while in residence was the fitness center, which, while large and well equipped, tended to get overcrowded except during the daytime on weekdays, because it could not accommodate the numbers of tenants that wanted to use it at any other time. The WIFI was operational in the clubhouse, but the Business Center was converted to another use and remained non existent during my tenure and the TV room/theater was almost always locked.

There is a shuttle bus to the Van Dorn Metro that runs fairly frequently during rush hour and the complex is convenient to 395.
Which is a detriment and benefit. The negative is that it makes the large, sprawling apartment complex convenient to criminals, who regularly burglarize units (there was one such incident right next door to my apartment in broad daylight) and break into cars. The key fob electronic building security system is often non operational and tenants, maintenance and movers routinely prop open the doors for a purpose and “forget” to close them when done. Particularly vulnerable are apartments on the first floor. The positive is the convenience of Landmark Mall, Van Dorn Plaza and bus service in addition to the aforementioned shuttle.

My experience with management and maintenance was not good, and with both, I went all the way to the top and met with the owner more than once. I never felt it was safe to have my unit serviced when I was not present and heard reports of things going missing after staff was called in to fix something.

Although these units are pricey, ostensibly because they include all utilities, most of what you get is surface appearance slapped over old infrastructure and not the more valuable subsequent customer service. Translation: once they hook you by showing you a model home in a well maintained building, they move on to the next prospect. Only very squeaky wheels get oiled after that. Which contributes to the very high turnover.

If you are new to the area, and/or are looking for temporary housing – and there are furnished units and short term leases available – EOS 21 may be a reasonable value, if you can afford the high rent for a few months while acclimating or if your employer or a parent is picking up the tab. Although billed as “apartment HOMES,” this garden style complex was built and intended to be a transitional place and prospective tenants should treat it as such and keep that in mind before putting down a non-refundable deposit and deciding to move here. It’s a “starter” HOME at best.

Category : Apartment Rentals &Rental Apartments Alexandria Virginia

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