Construction is under way on a 12-story building that will provide 315,000 square feet of office and retail space in Washington's historic financial district, The Kaempfer Co. has announced.

The building will be located at 1201 New York Ave. NW., near the avenue's intersection with Eye and 12th streets and two blocks from the D.C. Convention Center. The historic financial district centers on two blocks of 15th Street between K Street and the Treasury Building at Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

"The building's distinctive design recalls the neoclassical architecture of the surrounding area. The building is at the gateway of the historic financial district," said a spokesman for Clark, Tribble, Harris & Li, the architectural firm.

The building will feature 13,000 square feet of retail space surrounding a marble lobby, 25,000 square feet of office space on each floor and three levels of underground parking. The interior will include a full-height, eight-sided skylit atrium in the lobby and a 1,500-square-foot garden terrace on the 11th floor.

Constuction, by George Hyman Construction Co., is scheduled for completion in the fall of 1987.

Other recent developments in commercial realty in the Washington metropolitan area:

*Barnes, Morris & Pardoe Inc. leased 151,306 square feet in the Bond Building at 1400 New York Ave. to the General Services Administration. The 10-year lease has an aggregate value in excess of $25 million.

*The Thirteenth and K Streets Associates Limited Partnership sold 1275 K St. NW., a 12-story retail and office building, to Balcor Equity Pension Investors II & III, a limited partnership sponsored by Balcor Co. of Chicago.

*Arbitron Ratings Co., based in Beltsville, leased 75,000 square feet in the Ammendale Business Campus, bringing its total operating space to 220,000 square feet between three locations.

*Rouse & Associates has leased 25,000 square feet in the Ammendale Technology Park to Specialty Building Products.

*Larson, Ball & Gould Inc. sold the 61,000-square-foot Landmark Professional Building on 5249 Duke St. in Alexandria to Edward R. Carr Co.

*YMCA signed a $2 million lease for 8,700 square feet of office space at 1625 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

*Commercial Office Environment renewed and expanded its lease at Southgate in the Washington Business Park, Lanham. The $2.1 million lease is for 86,400 square feet of research and development space.

*Courtyards of Marriott, a division of Marriott Corp., will occupy 7,000 square feet in the Twelve Oaks Office Park in Rockville as its regional headquarters. The aggregate value is $560,000.

*Arthur Anderson & Co. leased 18,052 square feet from Larson, Ball & Gould Inc. at 818 Connecticut Ave.

*Academic Travel Abroad Inc., a sponsor of international tours for museums and universities, leased 11,514 square feet of office space at 3210 Grace St. in Georgetown.