Oliver T. Carr Jr., after 26 years of directing the daily operations of one of Washington's most influential development firms, is turning the management of the company over to his son Robert O. Carr.

The senior Carr, 62, said his move to the new position of chairman of The Oliver Carr Co. is not retirement, but rather a way for him to focus on policy decisions and to serve as a resource to the company. Robert Carr, 38, who has served as executive vice president of the company for three years, will become president and chief executive officer of the privately held company.

"We've grown at a tremendous rate," Oliver Carr said of his company, which in 1977 had completed seven projects, but has finished another 23 in the last decade. The company is currently building eight others at a cost of $328 million.

Until 1982, the company's projects were virtually all in the District, but the senior Carr said that now he is considering such questions as "where do we go next ... into Prince George's {County} or elsewhere in Virginia?"

In the last five years, the company moved into Northern Virginia, with the King Street Station project in Alexandria and projects near the Ballston Metro station in Arlington. It also has projects in Baltimore and Bethesda and one in Orlando, Fla., where Carr is building a new headquarters for the American Automobile Association while acquiring the group's present headquarters building in Fairfax County.

"We have plans to be in all parts of the region very shortly -- within the next several years," said Oliver Carr, who has been known in the past to object to some suburban development as too haphazard. "We consider ourselves to be a regional company."

Although Oliver Carr declined to specify where his firm might move next, both Carrs said they wanted their suburban development to take its cue from the downtown system of clustered development in different neighborhoods. "We're looking for a way to bring order and organization to suburban developments," Robert Carr said.

Oliver Carr said the evolution in the company's top managerial roles has transpired over the last five years. "I've gotten less and less involved in the minor decisions that collectively become major," he said. His son added, "I've been more the manager and now I'll be making more of the business decisions."

From the company headquarters at 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, where they direct the firm's 800 employes, the Carrs can look down the avenue toward Metropolitan Square, the Willard Hotel and office complex and other projects built by the firm, which has been instrumental in the redevelopment of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor.

With 7 million square feet of space developed in the Washington-Baltimore area, Oliver Carr is perhaps best known as the premier developer of office and mixed-use space in the District. He was an early and vocal believer in the potential of a revived downtown after the 1968 riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He has undertaken a number of projects that took years to complete.

The Willard project, in which the historic hotel was renovated and additional retail and office space was built, ran into financing problems under another developer before Carr stepped in. At the Metropolitan Square office building, the Carr Co. had to fight historic preservationists for years for the right to tear down Rhodes Tavern.

In Robert Carr's corner office that overlooks the Old Executive Office Building, the White House and several Carr projects, framed photographs display the younger Carr's love of deep-sea fishing -- a skill that he has taught his father. The two, who have worked together in the company since 1973, said the change in titles and functions would not affect the firm's basic direction. "It's important to understand that the Carr Co. is much bigger than Oliver or I," Robert Carr said.

The company has four major D.C. projects under construction: The Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza at Metro Center; The Metro Center Office Building at 13th and G streets NW; Renaissance Place, the renovation of the old Western Union building at 14th and G streets, and 1500 K St., the rehabilitation of the old Southern Railway Building.

In the suburbs, it is at work on the King Street Exchange and phase two of King Street Station in Alexandria, as well as the second phases of office buildings at Ballston Plaza and Shirlington in Arlington. Overall, the company has 15 million square feet of development, mostly offices, in various stages of planning.

Oliver Carr said he would be working with urban planners and community groups on several upcoming projects.

The elder Carr has long been a force in the development community in various public-private partnerships. In 1985, he was cochairman of the Downtown Partnership, a privately funded group that seeks to boost downtown revitalization. Since starting work in the suburbs, he has also helped found the King Street Station Task Force and the Ballston Partnership, which have similar functions for those areas.

Oliver Carr said the firm will be expanding its recent effort to custom build offices for companies, particularly focusing on the campus-like approaches that some corporations favor. He also said the firm's management services for tenants will grow as a natural extension of the company, which manages all the properties it owns and provides maintenance, parking and other services.

Citing his personal credo as a developer, Oliver Carr said "persistence or tenacity is everything." He noted that the move to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue began in 1960 during the inaugural festivities for John F. Kennedy.

Carr said the Willard project was his company's most satisfying development. "It was a very difficult job."

Oliver Carr hedged when asked what projects were mistakes, or which were toughest, though some industry officials think the long fight over Rhodes Tavern took its toll. "I have no regrets," he said.

While the Carr Co. is not the biggest developer in the Washington area in terms of developed square feet -- the Charles E. Smith Cos. probably hold that distinction with its Crystal City properties -- the firm has made the Carr family wealthy. Forbes magazine recently reported that Oliver Carr is one of the country's 400 richest people, worth about $225 million.

Oliver Carr said he will continue to have a major role in the development of both his company and Washington, and he noted that Robert's move into the president's chair will not be a shock to the firm.

"Our core values are the same, goals are the same, though our styles may vary... . But now the company's activities will be responsive to him," he said.