Marriott Corp., in another sign of an ongoing corporate contraction, has put on hold plans to move more than 1,200 employees into a proposed new office complex near its headquarters in Montgomery County.

Marriott's decision to forgo development of as much as 500,000 square feet of office space in the Tower Oaks project in Rockville appears to leave development of the 192-acre parcel in doubt.

The hotel and food-services firm was to be the largest tenant in a planned complex of office buildings at the site, located along Interstate 270. Employees currently scattered in offices throughout the county were to relocate in the new building as early as 1992.

"We don't see the need for any additional office space in the near term," William Shaw, Marriott's chief financial officer, said yesterday. "There are no plans right now to develop anything in {Rockville}."

The Tower Oaks site -- which comprises one of the last and largest undeveloped tracts in the lower portion of the county -- is owned by the Tower Cos. of Bethesda. Tower executives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Marriott's change of heart marks its second on a major development in Montgomery County since January.

Earlier this year, the company abandoned a two-year-old plan to build a massive new headquarters complex in Germantown and instead opened negotiations with Tower about swapping its Germantown land for space in the Rockville project.

Shaw said yesterday those discussions are continuing but that Marriott would not need any new office space until 1994 or 1995 at the earliest.

The Bethesda-based company, second-largest in the Washington area after Mobil Corp. of Fairfax, has been scaling down its hotel-building program in the face of deteriorating conditions in the real estate, banking and tourism markets nationwide.

In late September, Marriott said it would delay construction of new hotels and retirement communities for 12 to 18 months, and would cut its capital expenditures by half next year.

Marriott also has laid off about 450 workers since the start of the year, most of them in its architecture and construction divisions.

The company employs 16,500 people in the region, including 3,800 at its Bethesda headquarters.

Marriott's decision to delay action on the Rockville office site "would be consistent with the concerns that they have expressed," said Bruce Romer, Rockville's city manager. Rockville officials, who have jurisdiction over the Tower parcel, keep "in regular contact" with Marriott, and company officials "have expressed concern about whether this is going to be delayed," according to Romer.

Rockville Mayor Douglas M. Duncan said he had been told only that "Marriott wants to have lunch" with city officials, but no date had been set for the lunch. Staff writer Beth Kaiman contributed to this report.