George Washington University has revealed detailed plans for a $40 million Lafayette Square-type development in the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

A new contemporary 13-story office building will serve as a backdrop for the existing three-story Victorian-style row houses that line Eye Street off Pennsylvania between 20th and 21st streets. The block is sometimes called Red Lion Row after the tavern that was in its midst. For several years the university has been buying buildings in the area. Its purchases were completed last September with the exception of one structure at 2040 Eye Street which remains in nonuniversity hands. The building now houses the tavern and a food shop named Bon Appetit.

Financing for construction and other development costs, exclusive of the land, will be provided by the Public School Employes' Retirement System of Pennsylvania. The project is now scheduled for completion in 1983, although it still must be approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission and other city agencies. The plans recently were presented at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in Foggy Bottom.

The development was designed by Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum and John Carl Warnecke & Associates. Warnecke also planned Lafayette Square, which was considered revoluntionary back in 1969 and a victory for conservationists who won out over those who wanted to replace the period structures with modern glass and brick high rises. The concept since has been used successfully elsewhere, including in Georgetown.

The primary difference to the eye between Lafayette Square and Red Lion Row is in the use of buff-colored instead of red brick at the University site. Also the Eye Street houses are not as elegant as those on the square. Foggy Bottom residents insisted that efforts be made to preserve as much as possible of the old buildings. In a couple of cases, through, only the facades can be saved, according to the university. The interiors will be gutted and redesigned for commercial use. One 1940s structure in the middle of the block will be razed.

About half of the 33,000 square feet of the commercial area both in the restored buildings and new construction will be taken up by anywhere from five to eight restaurants. Economical eating establishments rated number one on the list of request by both community and campus residents. A faculty survey called for book stores. The remainder of the space will be rented to other types of retail enterprises. The upper stories of the row houses will remodeled into offices and let to professional persons and small businesses.

In all the complex will have 420,000 square feet above ground, plus 6,000 square feet of retail space at one level below grade and two underground parking levels. Above ground there will be bicycle and motorcycle racks. Rents for the large office building will be in the $18- to $24-a-square-foot range; those for the row houses have not been set.

There are now three "missing teeth" in the Victorian smile that is Red Lion Row. The cavities will befilled with a glass entrance to the office building lobby; the university gate, through which pedestrians will pass to get to H Street; and a fill-in of the vacant space near the 21st Street side of the project.

Three pedestrian entrances -- on Eye, 20th and 21st streets -- will give access to the complex, and an interior loop of mezzanine walkways will permit circulation among the interior retail spaces.