The chairman of one of the area's biggest development firms today revealed the formation of a new development company that will use all its profits to improve low-income housing.

James W. Rouse, chairman of the Rouse Co., said the new firm would be the first of its kind in the nation. He said the company, Enterprise Development Corp., will be owned by the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit group that will distribute the company's money for housing improvements.

Rouse disclosed the nature of the new company prior to the unveiling of the firm's $13.5 million proposal to revitalize the Norfolk waterfront, complete with four or five restaurants, 15 to 20 other eating establishments, old-fashioned meat and produce markets and 40 to 50 small shops.

"This may be the beginning of something useful to Norfolk and maybe the Tidewater area," Rouse said. The market project will be developed jointly by Rouse's new firm and the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The 75,000-square-foot market will be about half the size of Harborplace will be built in two phases. The second phase will start depending on the success of the first. The first is scheduled for completion in 1983, Rouse said.

The marketplace is projected to attract 5 million to 6 million visitors each year, supply 800 to 1,000 permanent jobs and generate $400,000 to $500,000 in annual taxes for the city within the first five years of operation.

It will edge the Elizabeth River behind the Omni International Hotel and stretch onto mostly vacant waterfront land facing downtown Portsmouth and a large shipbuilding firm.The city planners hope the project will awaken this sleepy town not only at night but during the daytime, too.

"Baltimore has one of the most sparkling center cities in American," Rouse said. "That can happen to Norfolk."

If approved by the Norfolk City Council the marketplace will be Enterprise's second venture, Rouse said. The first was Brown's Arcade, a commercial development in a group of old, delapidated buildings adjacent to Charles Center in downtonw Baltimore, Rouse said.