The look of Washington's downtown F Street retail center begins to change in earnest this month when Raleigh Stores Corp. closes its shop there as a result of the coming demolition of the building at 1310 F St. NW.

The building, which housed Raleigh's headquarters from 1923 until the 1971 opening of its store at 1133 Connecticut Ave. NW, will be torn down starting this month as part of the downtown redevelopment plan.

"If it wasn't for the fact that the building is going down, we wouldn't leave there," said Isaac Diamond, the vice president of the retail clothing chain, which after a planned Jan. 19 closing will have 11 outlets in the area. c

With the entire neighborhood undergoing a major revitalization, spurred by the access to Metro Center a block and a half away, Raleigh's hopes to remain in the vicinity and is negotiating for new space in the F Street area.

In the meantime, most of the F Street store's 39 employes will be placed in jobs throughout the company. "Only three or four people might not be placed," said Diamond, noting that seniority would be involved in the personnel decisions.

For many years, the F street store has been a popular shopping spot for government officials, regular downtown devotees, and tenants of the nearby National Press Building.

But the demolition of the building signals the start of a new era for the vicinity, which will see the construction of a major new hotel, office and shopping complex on a site adjoining the Press Building.